IT MADE an uncommonly inviting target for an activist. Stada, a German maker of generic drugs based near Frankfurt, had low revenues, high running costs and opaque accounting. It was valued lower than its peers and shunned by investors. And if its overpaid top managers were lacklustre, its supervisory board was fossilised: crammed with elderly doctors and pharmacists who did little to pep it up.
Shareholders in Germany usually shy away from confronting such problems. But after a rancorous 14-hour annual general meeting on August 26th, they voted out Stada’s chairman, Martin Abend. He went the way of the once-dominant chief executive, Hartmut Retzlaff, who quit in June (owing to an illness). As the board is rejigged, managers have rediscovered some ambition. They have promised to lift revenue to €2.6 billion ($2.9 billion) by 2019, from €2.1 billion last year.
It is a big victory for a young, German-led investment firm, Active Ownership Capital (AOC), which has adopted the sort of aggressive style usually associated with American, British or Nordic funds, such as Cevian Capital of Sweden. AOC, which has a 7% stake in Stada, fought for a year to shake up the board. The scrap broke out into the open in May. “We have seen a type of proxy contest, a big change in composition of a board, that has never happened before,” says Alexander Georgieff of…Continue reading