Cuisine de France owner Aryzta's plan to raise €800m in new capital is excessive, the company's biggest shareholder said today, adding it would present less-dilutive alternatives soon.
Aryzta's shares jumped as much as 35% on hopes that the move by Cobas Asset Management would force the Swiss-Irish bakery to take more modest steps as it seeks to cut debt and restore growth.
Cobas Asset Management has a stake of more than 14.5% in the baked goods group.
Aryzta's shares are down by two-thirds this year and more than 85% since 2014.
Aryzta also owns Otis Spunkmeyer cookies, La Brea Bakery breads and Cucina Grande pizza.
It has been hit partly by rising costs in North America and weak consumer spending in some European markets, particularly in Britain after its Brexit vote.
Earlier this month Aryzta, which lost more than $1 billion in 2017, struck a deal with banks on a capital increase.
Cobas, which has been building up its Aryzta holding in recent months, said progress so far by new chief executive Kevin Toland had convinced it that less dramatic measures than the proposed €800m capital increase were needed to get the company back on track.
"The company does not require such a highly dilutive capital increase," a Cobas spokesman said when asked for comment on the company's results.
"Principally we endorse the intention to strengthen the balance sheet. To that effect, we are reviewing alternatives that will improve upon the company's proposal," he added.
Cobas, based in Spain, said it would present its plans to the board or call for an extraordinary general meeting.
Shareholders had been set to vote on November 1 on the capital increase.
Aryzta today reported a full-year loss of €470m, hit again by distribution and labour costs. It made a €907m loss a year earlier.
Revenues in its European operations fell 1.6% to €1,710 billion, while its North American revenues slumped by 18.4% to €1.468 billion. Revenues at its Rest of World division decreased by 0.9% to €256.8m.
For its underlying business, Aryzta said it expected the current 2019 fiscal year to be "stable" as its cost-and-debt cutting programme called "Project Renew" takes hold.
Aryzta has revamped management after a turbulent year in which the company, among other challenges, was hit by raids on a Chicago bakery that employed undocumented workers and suffered from a failed spending spree that left it "overleveraged".
It appointed a new management team including new CEO, CFO, Chief Strategy Officer, Chief People Officer, General Counsel and new CEOs of both the North American and European businesses
Earlier this summer, Switzerland's Larius Capital, a small shareholder, also began pushing Aryzta to sell more assets and reduce or even eliminate the capital increase.
Toland, who took up his job in May, has begun a debt-cutting drive, which includes plans to sell Aryzta's 49%stake in French frozen-food company Picard.
The company said its net debt stood at €1.5 billion on July 31.
"Over a period of time, Aryzta's strategy became unfocused," Toland said on a call with reporters.
"We have now stabilised the company and are moving to fix the balance sheet," he added.
On the call, Toland declined to comment on any push among shareholders to trim the capital increase, citing company policy.
An Aryzta spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment about Cobas's opposition to the capital hike.
Shares in the company closed almost 20% higher in Dublin trade this evening.