In a very controversial vote Accor’s (ACRFF.PK) board of directors voted on December 15 to split the company into two businesses. Accor Hospitality would focus on the company’s hotels and Accor Services would focus on voucher and pre-paid services. Activist shareholders Colony Capital and Eurazeo, which together hold 30% of the company’s shares, argued that splitting up the company would unlock value for shareholders. The French government, which holds 7.5% of shares, argued that it was risky at a time when it was still difficult to raise capital to split the company’s cash cow vouchers and services business from its capital hungry hotel division.
I think both sides have a point.
It is risky to split up the two businesses for exactly the reason that the government investment fund noted. But a split might light a fire under the hotel division, which has been reluctant to give up a real-estate heavy business model in which it preferred to own hotels for the capital-light model adopted by other hotel chains. In that model hotel companies have sold real estate and rely on partners for investment in hotel properties while the hotel company concentrates on managing hotels on a fee basis.
What concerns me isn’t so much the outcome of the vote but the erosion of good corporate governance at Accor.
Executive chairman Gilles Pelisson, who had initially opposed the breakup on grounds that neither business really stood alone—the voucher and services business, he argued, wasn’t geographically diverse enough to stand alone since 40% of revenue came from Latin America—wound up supporting the deal proposed by Colony Capital and Eurazeo. Six company directors resigned in February when Pelisson added the job of chairman to his role as chief executive. Under the breakup approved by the board and backed by Colony Capital and Eurazeo, Pellison would head the hotel unit if shareholders approve the breakup.
No thanks. It’s hard enough getting enough information about an overseas company to begin with without having to worry about management.
As of January 5, 2010, I’m selling Accor out of my long-term Jubak’s Picks portfolio.