Treasury in limbo after chief ousted
Investor heat has turned on the Treasury Wine Estates board for its shock ejection on Monday of chief executive David Dearie.
Questions have been raised as to the strategic direction of the winemaker and who will take the reins of the troubled group.
Analysts on Tuesday also raised concerns about what actions a new CEO would take, when one is eventually appointed, with the company's US operation in further need of investment as well as time to turn around.
Crucially for investors the visibility for Treasury Wine Estates' earnings and outlook has become foggy due to the loss of its CEO and the potential for a new boss to push through a new strategic direction.
"In the last four months Treasury Wine Estates has replaced its CEO, CFO and taken major provisioning regarding its US commercial wine business," Goldman Sachs analyst Gabriel Wilson-Otto said.
"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 said he remained concerned regarding the level of reinvestment required 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 around the company.
"Will the new CEO recommend the same strategy?" Mr Gandler said. "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 has 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 general 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 [remuneration] package for 2013-14," Mr Jackson said.
"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 on Tuesday after falling 6.3per cent Monday, closing up 14¢ at $4.59.