UPDATE 2-South Africa’s Old Mutual suspends CEO citing ‘breakdown in trust’

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* Shares in S.Africa’s No.2 insurer fell 5 pct

* Suspension follows “breakdown in trust”

* Investor says lack of detail fuels speculation (Adds shares, investor quote, context, bullets)

By Emma Rumney

JOHANNESBURG, May 24 (Reuters) – Old Mutual suspended Chief Executive Peter Moyo on Friday, citing a “material breakdown in trust” with its board just hours before the annual shareholder meeting of South Africa’s No.2 insurer, knocking its shares.

Moyo, who took the helm at newly-listed Old Mutual less than a year ago, would be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Iain Williamson as acting CEO immediately, the insurer said.

“The board has had various engagements with Mr Peter Moyo … These engagements have caused the board to conclude that there has been a material breakdown in trust and confidence between him and the board,” Old Mutual said in a statement.

Moyo, who has held senior executive or board positions in a variety of firms and served as a deputy managing director in a previous stint at Cape Town-based Old Mutual, did not immediately respond to requests for comment via LinkedIn and email.

He rejoined Old Mutual in 2017, initially as head of the emerging markets division, before the former conglomerate’s main African financial services business was split off in a disentanglement of the 173-year-old group’s structure.

Chairman Trevor Manuel, a businessman and former South African finance minister, would provide more information at the Old Mutual’s Annual General Meeting, a spokeswoman said.

Both Old Mutual’s Johannesburg and London-listed shares dropped 5% on news of Moyo’s suspension, but recovered to 21.53 rand per share by 0725 GMT in Johannesburg, a 0.78% decline.

Since its listing as a separate business in June 2018, Old Mutual has been working to hone its strategy as a stand-alone business and parent company to what remains of Old Mutual Plc.

Old Mutual announced a 2 billion rand ($139 million) share buyback in March in a bid to placate shareholders following an almost one-third drop in the share price since the listing.

Traders and investors were left guessing by the move.

“Given the very little information in the announcement, it leaves room for speculation,” Jan Meintjes, portfolio manager at Old Mutual investor Denker Capital, said. ($1 = 14.4076 rand) (Reporting by Emma Rumney; editing by Rashmi Aich, Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)

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