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Shareholders of Netherlands-based mail and express company TNT NV approved the market separation of the company’s mail and express divisions into two separate entities with the demerger to become legally effective 31 May 2011. TNT NV’s statutory name will be changed to PostNL NV and the company will be devoted solely to mail. The express business will be carried on by a new company under the name TNT Express NV. Shares in the two companies are now separately traded on NYSE Euronext Amsterdam.
This split is hardly news – TNT has been focused on it for over a year now – but it is interesting to note that while shareholders almost unanimously approved the demerger, they rejected the recommendation to discharge the supervisory board (something that is virtually always rubber-stamped in cases like this).
The refusal to relieve the board of its liabilities is widely seen as an expression of dissatisfaction over the board’s perceived unwillingness to sell TNT’s Express operations to a competitor – thus enhancing value for shareholders. We say “perceived” because the Board has never acknowledged that it has received any expressions of interest, and no potential suitor (with FedEx and UPS being the obvious candidates) has ever publicly announced an intention to make an offer. With the vote, former CEO Peter Bakker retired and TNT Express will now be led by Marie-Christine Lombard, with Bernard Bot as CFO.
So, what next? Management says it’s full speed ahead for an independent TNT Express. But how long will it be independent? Will TNT’s European network be too tempting a target to ignore for FedEx or UPS? Or perhaps for a Chinese player looking to enter the worldwide express arena?