Eurotunnel board prepare for Paris showdown

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The Independent Online

The beleaguered board of Eurotunnel, the cross-Channel tunnel operator, this week made a last-minute effort to whip British investors into line in a battle to unseat the chief executive, Richard Shirrefs.

The beleaguered board of Eurotunnel, the cross-Channel tunnel operator, this week made a last-minute effort to whip British investors into line in a battle to unseat the chief executive, Richard Shirrefs.

He has come under attack from a French pressure group, Adacte, which wants to replace him with a rival faction led by Herve Huas, a former managing director at JP Morgan bank.

The rebels are unhappy with Eurotunnel's continuing losses and huge borrowings. It is attempting to cut down its £6bn debt, and persuade the British and French governments to vote it state subsidies.

Eurotunnel has 150,000 small shareholders in the UK, together owning five per cent of the shares. Another million French individual investors own 60 per cent. Many UK shareholders are entitled to Eurotunnel travel perks, from the 1987 flotation.

Mr Shirrefs said: "The proposed replacement board is an alliance of convenience which lacks any serious programme to ensure the future of Eurotunnel. The Board's opponents say they intend to cancel a large part of Eurotunnel's debt.

"It is incredibly naive, if not dishonest, to suggest that Eurotunnel could unilaterally oblige its lenders to reduce their debt with nothing in return. If the company refused to pay them, Eurotunnel's creditors could take control of the tunnel and operate it themselves, which would cause Eurotunnel shares immediately to lose all of their value."

Montserrat Barralis, secretary to Adacte, said: "The Eurotunnel board is obviously afraid and they are trying to say our proposals are utopian. They're bound to say that to keep their jobs and their salaries."

Eurotunnel is concerned because shareholder's proxy voting forms must be lodged by 12.30pm on 5 April, to be valid for a meeting in Paris two days later.

Shareholders should complete all three sections of the two forms enclosed with the circular: part A of the first form for the AGM of Eurotunnel plc; part B of the first form for the AGM of Eurotunnel SA; and the separate form for the requisitioned meeting voting on the proposed replacement of the board.

The forms should be sent to Computershare Investor Services, PO Box 1075, Bristol BS99 3FA. Shareholders can call 08457 697 397 or go to www.eurotunnel.com if they have any queries or if they have lost the forms.

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