Wolseley U-turns on appointment of ailing Cobham's finance chief Simon NichollsComments Off on Wolseley U-turns on appointment of ailing Cobham's finance chief Simon Nicholls
Plumbing giant Wolseley has made an embarrassing U-turn on its new finance chief, who was due to join from struggling defence contractor Cobham.
Simon Nicholls was appointed in January, four months before Cobham launched a £500 million emergency rights issue to shore up its balance sheet following a 70% plunge in first-quarter profit.
Wolseley said in a brief statement that Nicholls would not take up the role, which would be filled instead by David Keltner, the finance director of its US subsidiary Ferguson, on an interim basis. A search for a permanent replacement will start immediately, it added.
Numis said the decision was an “interesting move and in our view very sensible”, noting that several institutional investors had been “very adamant” that Nicholls should not join Wolseley.
House broker Barclays echoed that view, saying Wolseley had avoided potential “reputational risk” and shareholder questions, which “at the beginning of a new stage would be an unhelpful distraction”.
It praised John Martin, the former finance chief who is due to replace boss Ian Meakins this year, hailing the decision as a “brave step” and “encouraging at the start of his time as CEO”.
Wolseley shares were flat at 4088p.
Martin inherits a much healthier Wolseley thanks to Meakins’ major transformation. During his seven-year tenure as chief executive, Meakins sold off assets and scaled back branches of Bathstore, Plumb Centre and Build Centre chains.