Toute l'actualité de l'engagement actionnarial par PhiTrust

Notre impact:
- 1450 initiatives privées
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- 27 résolutions externes déposées

Depuis plus de dix ans, nous croyons que l’éthique du management et la gouvernance ont un rôle fondamental au sein des entreprises dans lesquelles nous investissons pour le compte de nos clients.
Face aux défis immenses de la crise que nous vivons aujourd’hui, nous sommes de plus en plus convaincus que nos entreprises cotées en Europe ont besoin d’actionnaires minoritaires actifs qui les aident à développer des stratégies innovantes pour répondre aux enjeux financiers, commerciaux et sociaux de notre monde actuel, et nous essayons d’y contribuer par notre stratégie d’investissement.

28 février 2013

Is segregation of powers a barrier to Schneider Electric’s offshoring?

The issue of segregation of powers in non-controlled companies is again under the spotlight at a time when Schneider Electric proposes to merge directorship functions, with a CEO who will be based in Hong Kong. If shareholders vote for unification of powers, a question, which will arise more and more frequently for global enterprises, will inevitably ensue: which type of governance is suited to multinational enterprises?

In the case of Schneider Electric, if the CEO is in Hong Kong, it is likely that more and more board meetings will be held outside France (a natural trend given the
internationalisation of Board members and of the business). Given that there are few French shareholders (<16)
and as the vast majority of employees are outside France, the company will no longer be anchored in France and will truly become a “multinational” (Georges Orwell’s Firm…). And we will soon reach the stage where General Meetings are held online, allowing all shareholders to attend… which will foster the emergence of a “virtual” enterprise.

This trend "with the flow of history" gives rise to numerous questions (let us not forget Pechiney, Arcelor, etc.) in relation to the future of an industry in Europe and, particularly, as regards the risks incurred by these companies that will be virtual, without any shareholding or national roots, of facing a hostile takeover bid, in which case very few investors will be there to support them as the company “will be both global and virtual”…

This offshore relocation trend in respect of directorships in major French companies is currently accelerating (several companies will opt for this solution in 2013…). This poses governance issues for any shareholder of a French company. The aim is not to hinder a process but to review our governance criteria. Our Belgian neighbours have gone through this 10 years ago with Générale de Banque, Fina, Dexia, etc. and consider this trend to be irreversible, whereas other countries have been able to implement a framework to limit the effects of this trend:

-          In Germany, segregation of powers in major groups and voting rules within the Monitoring Committee with a very significant weightage of employee’s representatives that de facto reduce the risk of having decision-making bodies outside Germany,

-          In Switzerland, half of the Board meetings must be held domestically, thus requiring the onshoring of decision-making bodies,

-          In the UK or in the Netherlands for instance, pension funds play a major part in supporting domestic enterprises, whereas in France, the weightage of employee shareholders is non-significant in several international French groups (lack of legislation on pension funds) thereby impeding balanced governance.


Once again the risk is to see politics hijack the issue and propose “nationalist” solutions which would only accelerate the offshore relocation process in the context, in particular, of the European company legislation (ease of transfer of registered office in Europe for any company having opted for European company status). What is then left for the shareholders to do?

Segregation of powers now constitutes an answer to this very topical decision-making issue and it is vital that Schneider Electric’s shareholders object and vote against the proposal to amend the articles of association in view of unifying the CEO’s powers.

Olivier de Guerre, Chairman of PhiTrust Active Investors