Pace hit by shock departure of CFO

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SHARES in Pace, the world’s biggest maker of TV set-top boxes, tumbled nearly four per cent yesterday after the shock departure of respected chief financial officer Roddy Murray.

The 13.4p fall in share price to 355p came despite an increase in profit guidance as the market expressed concerns over Mr Murray’s departure.

The Saltaire-based company said his departure was for “personal and confidential” reasons, but his decision to resign over the weekend meant the group’s interim results had to be brought forward by a day.

The move meant that chief executive Mike Pulli was unable to fulfil his normal commitments with investors and the media as he was crossing the Atlantic when the results were announced yesterday morning. While there is no suggestion that there is anything amiss with the accounts or the company’s performance, Mr Murray’s move spooked the market.

Analysts at Liberum analysts said: “The highly regarded chief financial officer, Roddy Murray, has stepped down to be replaced by the financial controller, which may raise questions. No reason given for Roddy’s departure. Strong results and guidance should be taken well, but longer term structural challenges remain.”

​Analyst Alexandra Jarvis at Peel Hunt said the reasons for Mr Murray’s departure are “personal and confidential”.

“While Roddy’s departure is a blow, he leaves the business in significantly stronger shape and we expect his successor to be incentivised similarly on cash flow performance,” she said.

Analysts at Barclays said: “The press release does not detail the reasons for him stepping down, but an attachment letter from Pace’s auditors certifying the 1H14 accounts presented today are fine.”

Mr Murray will be replaced by three-year company veteran financial controller Belinda Ellis on a temporary basis while a permanent replacement is found.

In a terse statement the only reference the company made to Mr Murray was to say: “Roddy Murray has stepped down from the board of Pace with immediate effect.”

There was no mention of any gratitude for his service to the company.

His departure overshadowed an upbeat set of half-year results. The group said that full-year profits will beat expectations, thanks to new product launches and contract wins.

The ​company, whose customers include Sky, AT&T, Comcast Corp and DirecTV, said its operating margin for 2014 was expected to be no less than 8.5 per cent, a rise from 7.8 per cent in 2013.

Cash flow was projected at more than ​£117​m, an increase from the previous estimate of ​£107m.