Sacking fogs vision of Treasury wine group
Investor heat has now turned on the Treasury Wine Estates board for its shock ejection of chief executive David Dearie on Monday with questions raised about the strategic direction of the winemaker and who will take the reins of the troubled group.
Analysts yesterday also raised concerns about what actions a new chief executive would take, when one is appointed, with the company's troubled American operation in further need of investment as well as time to turn around.
Crucially for investors, visibility of Treasury's earnings and outlook are foggy due to the loss of its chief executive and potential for a new boss to push a new strategy.
"In the last four months Treasury Wine Estates has replaced its CEO, CFO and taken major provisioning regarding its US commercial wine business," said Goldman Sachs analyst Gabriel Wilson-Otto. "We see the potential for a new CEO to re-evaluate either the sustainable scale of Treasury Wine Estates' US commercial operations or the magnitude of reinvestment required.
"In our view this impacts earnings visibility."
He remained concerned about the reinvestment needed to sustainably improve its troublesome US operations.
Larry Gandler, at Citi, said the sudden departure of Mr Dearie at the board's request increased uncertainty. "Will the new CEO recommend the same strategy?" Mr Gandler asked. "Will the new CEO be more conservative in earnings outlooks inducing analyst downgrades? Will the new CEO step up marketing in the US cautioning investors about medium-term profit in that market?"
JP Morgan analyst Stuart Jackson reduced his price target to $4.35 from $4.60. He questioned the timing of Mr Dearie's forced exit just after documents for the annual meeting were released.
"We think it was as surprising that it took the board two months to get to this position as it was that it occurred just three days after the company released its proxy voting form for the upcoming AGM that included a vote on Mr Dearie's [pay] package for 2013-14.
"This shows that the decision was made only very recently and that the company is still reacting to the issues it faces in the US.
"In our view, the termination with immediate effect raises the risk that there is more bad news to come."
Shares in Treasury Wine Estates recovered some ground yesterday after falling 6.3 per cent on Monday, closing up 14¢ at $4.59.