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Sir Chris Hohn has called on the board of Airbus, in which TCI Fund Management owns more than 3%, to drop a plan to buy a minority stake in a cybersecurity company.
Airbus has been in talks to invest in Evidian, the cyber arm of French IT company Atos. “Evidian is a low-quality, highly levered company, with 60,000 employees, operating in an extremely competitive market,” Hohn wrote in a letter on Monday.
“A minority 29.9% stake in Evidian would be an illiquid and distressed asset. It would be stranded capital and an extremely inefficient use of shareholder funds.”
Hohn alluded to a press release last week in which the deal was described as ensuring “technological sovereignty in France”.
He said: “This suggests there is some political motivation for Airbus to complete the transaction. Management and the board have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of Airbus and its shareholders, not to invest the company’s capital with regard to political issues such as ‘sovereignty.'”
TCI’s stake in Airbus is worth more than €4bn ($4.3bn) and the $40bn manager has been an investor since 2012.
Hohn warned that if the deal with Evidian went through and evidence subsequently emerged of it being politically motivated, “then all directors may be in breach of their fiduciary duty and we reserve our rights to litigate for shareholder damages and hold the directors personally liable for these damages.”
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