By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) – The shareholders of AccorHotels (PA:) on Friday granted former French President Nicolas Sarkozy a seat on the board of Europe's largest hotel group, and rejected a bid to block long-term shareholders from getting more double voting rights.
Chairman and CEO Sebastien Bazin reiterated at the annual shareholders meeting that double voting rights were a good way to foster loyalty and stability among shareholders..
“We have a solid and extremely diversified shareholder basis,” he said.
Europe's largest hotel group has seen some big changes in its shareholder base recently, with investors from China, Saudi Arabia and Qatar now holding a combined 29 percent stake.
Soon, these shareholders – which include Chinese competitor Shanghai Jin Jiang (SS:) – could qualify for double voting rights under the company 's rules.
This led critics, including French shareholder advisory group Proxinvest, to say this could give them more control over the company without having to pay a premium for that advantage.
Proxinvest had advised a group of 14 shareholders, led by Paris-based investment firm PhiTrust and representing 2.3 percent of AccorHotels's capital, which had filed a proposal to block the further granting of double voting rights.
The proposal needed a two-thirds majority to be approved but received just 52.36 percent of the votes cast at the meeting.
Chinese group Jin Jiang is Accor's biggest investor with 12.58 percent of the shares and 11.22 percent of the voting rights, having built its stake since late 2015.
French media reports in June 2016 that the Chinese firm could gradually seek to gain more control over Accor drove President Francois Hollande to state publicly that AccorHotels should retain a diverse group of shareholders. [nL8N18Y2SE)
Sarkozy also chairs the newly created international strategy committee of AccorHotels. His board appointment was announced in February.
Bazin on Friday quashed speculation that Sarkozy's nomination could be a way to help limit Jin Jiang's influence.
“Nicolas Sarkozy is not in any way a brake (to Jin Jiang), his nomination is not related to our Chinese shareholder,” he said.
Sarkozy, who led France for five years from 2007, lost his bid for another presidential term in November after coming third in the primaries of his centre-right party.
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