September 19, 2018 / 9:26 AM / in a month

Royal Mail chairman steps down to focus on Countrywide role

(Reuters) - Royal Mail Plc (RMG.L) said Peter Long would step down as chairman of the British post and parcel services company with immediate effect and be replaced by Les Owen.

FILE PHOTO: Royal Mail vans are parked in the Leytonstone post office depot in London, Britain early July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce/File Photo

The company said Long had concluded he could no longer serve as non-executive chairman of Royal Mail and as executive chairman of British estate agent Countrywide Plc (CWD.L).

Long has faced shareholder revolts at both firms. Royal Mail shareholders rejected a pay package for senior executives in July, while Countrywide abandoned plans in August to revamp its incentive package for directors after meeting top investors.

The management change comes as Royal Mail expands into Canada with the purchase of parcel delivery firm Dicom Canada for C$360 million (211 million pounds).

Britain’s former state postal monopoly has struggled with a fall in letter volumes and has invested in foreign markets under the Global Logistics Systems (GLS) brand since its privatisation in 2013.

Royal Mail shares, which have risen about 4 percent in Long’s three-year tenure as chairman, were up 0.5 percent on Wednesday after the news.

Owen, who joined the Royal Mail Board in 2010, has been a member of the audit and risk committee and remuneration committee. He was previously chief executive of AXA Sun Life and AXA Asia Pacific Holdings.

Long is also facing a tumultuous period at Countrywide, which has issued four profit warnings in eight months and is trying to reduce a 212 million pound ($279 million) debt pile.

Long has run Countrywide with a brief to restore profits at its core sales and lettings business since Alison Platt stepped down as chief executive after a profit warning in January.

Countrywide shares were little changed.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Jason Neely and Edmund Blair

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