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Eurotunnel rebels bury board

VILLEPINTE, France, April 7 (AFP) – Jacques Maillot, the former head of travel group Nouvelles Frontieres who Eurotunnel dissident shareholders want to install as the group’s new chairman, said Wednesday he plans to renegotiate the founding treaty of the Franco-British group.

The original 1986 Canterbury Treaty which granted the Eurotunnel concession forbids any state bailout of the group.

Maillot told a shareholders meeting in Villepinte, a Paris suburb, that he had already set up meetings with politicians with influence over the issue.

“I will get on my scooter straight away and get down to (the finance ministry at) Bercy,” he said.

He reiterated that while Eurotunnel was a private company, it was created to provide a public service.

Eurotunnel said Wednesday its shareholders had rejected all the resolutions put before them at the meeting, including motions to approve the accounts and to re-elect chief executive Richard Shirrefs.

The shareholders were set to vote on whether to sack and replace the current management of the Channel rail tunnel operator, which appeared almost certain, observers said.

Nicolas Miguet, the French businessman and right-wing, would-be presidential candidate who has rallied dissident shareholders at the company, said he considered the proposed leadership, including Maillot as chairman and Herve Huas as chief financial officer, as his “dream team”.

Maillot ruled out any staff cuts but said he would push ahead with a cost-cutting programme and improvements in productivity at the debt-ridden Channel rail tunnel operator.

He said his priorities were both to save Eurotunnel from collapse and to lift the share price.

He rejected Eurotunnel management’s ‘Galaxie’ restructuring programme and said “there are always several other options” for a large company.

The Galaxie plan included cutting tariffs, but Maillot was thought to be considering raising tariffs, particularly with its key client, the French national railway.

He said he would meet with officials at Ste Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais (SNCF) as soon as possible.

Earlier Wednesday, officials from both the British and French governments ruled out the use of public funds to support Eurotunnel.

                                                                 Subject: French news