Ingenico Calls Time on CEO Lazare in Major Management Shakeup

(Bloomberg) -- Ingenico Group is undergoing one of its biggest management shakeups of recent times with the removal of Philippe Lazare, its chief executive officer and chairman, in a move that could lead to a potential deal.

Following a request from the board, Lazare is stepping down from both roles. Bernard Bourigeaud, founder of Atos SE, will be the payment company’s new chairman, while Chief Operating Officer Nicolas Huss will become CEO.

Ingenico Calls Time on CEO Lazare in Major Management Shakeup

Lazare has led Ingenico for 11 years, but recently the company has come under increasing pressure over its performance. Shares slumped this year as management struggled to convince investors of the merits of its legacy terminals business. Natixis SA is among companies exploring a potential tie-up with Ingenico.

“This departure might be a prelude to a change of strategy or a combination,” said Francois Chaulet, who helps manage 550 million euros ($626 million) at Montsegur Finance in Paris. “Ingenico, weakened by profit warnings, has become a target.”

The shares climbed as much as 5 percent in Paris on Monday, trimming the decline this year to 24 percent and valuing Ingenico at 4.3 billion euros.

The abrupt change at the top signals a desire from the board for a fresh start. Lazare was considering stepping back from the CEO role in coming months, while keeping the chairman position, according to a person familiar with the situation. However, Lazare will immediately make way for Bourigeaud and Huss, according to a statement from the company.

Ingenico Calls Time on CEO Lazare in Major Management Shakeup

Lazare, 62, has been synonymous with Ingenico since being appointed CEO in 2007. A former deputy managing director of La Poste, the French post office, and CEO of Eurotunnel Plc, he presided over a soaring share price until 2015. But the last few years have become a battle of takeovers and struggling legacy businesses.

Ingenico Calls Time on CEO Lazare in Major Management Shakeup

In October, Ingenico cut its full-year guidance in a surprise statement, citing the disappointing performance of its payments unit known for its point-of-sale card transaction business.

Lazare has previously signaled that he viewed Ingenico as more predator than prey, and attempted to keep the firm independent while scouting for smaller takeovers. The firm spent 1.5 billion euros last year to buy Sweden’s Bambora in the biggest acquisition in its history, but this year lost out to Atos’s Worldline division in a bidding war for Swiss stock market operator SIX Group AG’s payments unit.

The shakeup may smooth the way for a deal for Ingenico, one of the few large firms to remain independent in the rapidly consolidating payments industry in Europe. The Paris-based company recently appointed a committee of independent directors to review strategic options for the company.

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