Veolia Environnement – EDF Chief Quits as Director

Veolia Environnement SA (VIE) said Henri Proglio, chief executive officer of Electricite de France SA, resigned as a director of the world’s biggest water utility.

“We received a letter of resignation last night,” Veolia spokeswoman Marie-Claire Camus said by telephone. She declined to say whether another representative of the utility will take his place. EDF has a 3.9 percent stake in Veolia.

Proglio’s departure from Veolia’s board could mark the end of a struggle with CEO Antoine Frerot over the restructuring of the water utility through asset sales and debt reduction. Proglio was chairman and chief executive of Veolia until he took the helm of EDF in 2009. He stayed on as chairman of Veolia until December 2010, a move that was criticized by politicians because of potential conflicts of interests.

Frerot earlier this year reshuffled the board, which in February backed the slimming down of Veolia and Frerot’s position as head of the utility. This came after reports in the French press that Proglio had tried to garner support for Frerot’s ouster.

Frerot’s restructuring plan is aimed at reducing debt as Veolia reduces exposure to the mass-transit business to focus on water, waste and energy services. It marks a reversal of the global expansion started by Proglio, who spent about 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) on acquisitions in 2007 and 2008, pushing the utility into 77 countries from Argentina to South Korea.

Frerot has overseen the sale of the utility’s U.K. regulated-water and U.S. waste-management and Baltic waste businesses and has cut the dividend.

The utility plans to sell 5 billion euros of assets and cut investment by 500 million euros this year and next. The water company will also lower operating costs by 270 million euros in 2013 and 500 million euros in 2015.


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