Biffa's CEO makes way for new blood

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The Independent Online

Martin Bettington, the long-standing chief executive of waste management company Biffa, is to stand down next March although the surprise departure is not related to a recent bid approach.

Mr Bettington's exit after 17 years at the helm of Biffa follows Friday's revelation that Montagu Private Equity and HG Capital approached the company about a potential cash offer in early September. But Biffa has denied the two events are connected, arguing that the decision to bring in new blood was made in mid-October, long after the approach was rejected. Mr Bettington and other management told analysts that after such a long stint at the company, it was agreed that bringing in a new chief executive would be appropriate at this point.

Lehman Brothers said Mr Bettington "clearly didn't relish the spotlight of the City" but analysts still expressed surprise at the departure, particularly amid a potential takeover situation. Charles Pick, an analyst with JM Finn, said: "It's not ideal in timing terms for Biffa."

Since its demerger from water utility Severn Trent in October last year, Biffa's shares have see-sawed, driven primarily by speculation of a private equity takeover. Biffa is seen as a prime takeover target given the long-term revenue profile of waste management companies. Montagu and HG, which hold a 2.4 per cent stake in Biffa, still appear keen on taking over. Kevin Lapwood, an analyst with Seymour Pierce, said Biffa is a "sitting duck" for an infrastructure investor.