French food group Danone is making swift progress in its search for a new chief executive and hopes to come to a decision soon, Jean-Michel Severino, the head of Danone's governance committee said on Thursday.
"The number of candidates has narrowed. We are now conducting in-depth discussions with a very limited number of candidates and hope to conclude soon," Severino told the company's annual shareholders meeting.
Former Chairman and CEO Emmanuel Faber was ousted by Danone's board in March. His departure followed calls from activist shareholders to replace him after sales growth and share price performance became sluggish compared to rivals.
Two Potential Candidates
A source close to the matter had told Reuters this month that Danone was aiming to narrow its shortlist to two names in May.
Antoine de Saint-Affrique, who announced on 22 April he was stepping down from Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut at the end of August, is widely seen as being one of two candidates having detailed talks with Danone.
The other name that is surfacing is Nathalie Roos, who recently left her job at the helm of L'Oreal's Professional Products division. She declined to comment.
Asked whether he was a candidate, De Saint-Affrique said in a statement to Reuters last week that he had yet to leave Barry Callebaut.
"For the next five months, as I told analysts and journalists this morning, cacao and chocolate will remain my only concern," De Saint-Affrique had said.
Danone has made it clear it wants an external candidate for the CEO job, and someone with operational experience in the food industry.
Danone appointed director Gilles Schnepp as non-executive chairman in the management shake-up, and two internal managers as interim CEOs.