January 21, 2018 / 12:06 PM / 9 months ago

Engie CEO Kocher says would welcome a new board chair

PARIS (Reuters) - Engie (ENGIE.PA) Chief Executive Isabelle Kocher said on Sunday she would welcome a new board chairman if the right person could be found after Gerard Mestrallet retires in May.

Kocher, who was appointed CEO in May 2016 after Mestrallet gave up that role, has never said whether she wants to combine the two functions as Mestrallet did.

Last month, French daily Les Echos reported that the French government had decided to keep the chairman and CEO roles at the utility separate and find a successor to Mestrallet.

“If a new chair were to join us and he is compatible, believes in our strategy and help us to accelerate it, I would be delighted,” Kocher said on CNEWS television.

In many French listed companies the CEO also chairs the board, and Kocher - who is the only female CEO among the Paris bluechip CAC40 index .FCHI companies - is believed to want to combine the roles too.

The French state, which has a 24.1 percent stake in Engie’s capital, has five representatives on Engie’s 19-member board.

Kocher denied media speculation about disagreements between her and Mestrallet. “He made this company into what it is and I thank him for all he has done to put us in a situation to succeed,” she said.

Since taking the CEO role, Kocher has focused Engie’s strategy on renewables, grids and energy services and has sold nearly 15 billion euros ($18.3 billion) worth of fossil-fuel related activities.

($1 = 0.8183 euros)

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Susan Fenton and John Stonestreet

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