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Stockmann CEO departs amid restructuring

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HELSINKI / Reuters

Loss-making Finnish retailer Stockmann announced the surprise departure of its chief executive, after 16 months in the job, raising questions over the company’s ongoing restructuring.
Per Thelin, who will leave the company immediately, was recruited in 2014 to revive the department store and fashion chain group after its earnings fell due to a recession in Finland and a weak Russian rouble.
He steered restructuring efforts that included pulling out of the Russian market, divesting one fashion chain and starting to lease out retail space at its department stores.
Stockmann now expects a small profit in 2016 and said it was set to enter a stage of growth but also said that Thelin and the board of directors had jointly agreed on his
Chief Financial Officer Lauri Veijalainen will act as temporary CEO until Thelin’s successor has been found. Shares in the company were down 1.4 percent.
“His departure was unexpected, and it raises a lot of questions,” said Niclas Catani, analyst at OP Financial Group.
“Thelin’s work was not yet done. He was hired to restructure the company, but I don’t see them yet turning a corner.”
The move also follows disagreements between the company’s biggest owners. A shareholder meeting last month voted down proposals to combine the company’s two share series and to authorize the board to decide on share issues.
“In the long run, I see the company moving more into the real-estate business. It’s hard to see them turn the department stores into profit,” Catani said.
Stockmann plc is a Finnish listed company engaged in the retail trade. Its three business divisions are the Department Store Division and the Lindex and Seppälä fashion chains. Stockmann was established in 1862 and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2012. Stockmann has 16 department stores and over 700 stores in 16 countries.
The flagship store in the center of Helsinki covers 50,000 square meters (538,200 square feet) of retail space and welcomes more than 13 million visitors every year.
The Department Store Division comprises 16 department stores, 21 other stores and three online stores. Stockmann’s department stores operate in Finland, Russia, and the Baltic countries. In Finland, the Division also includes the Stockmann and Academic Bookstore online stores, Stockmann Beauty cosmetics stores, and Hobby Hall.

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