Shares tank as Rolls-Royce’s biggest investor gives up board seat

The biggest shareholder in engineering group Rolls-Royce has pulled its representative from the board, months after selling down part of its stake in the troubled company.

Bradley Singer, chief operating officer of San Francisco-based activist investor ValueAct, stepped down from the role on Monday, the company announced to the market a day later.

It comes just months after ValueAct sold off part of its stake in Rolls-Royce – in March it reduced its holding in the engineering firm from 10.94% to 9.48%.

Share prices fell on the news on Tuesday morning as investors feared this could be the canary in the coal mine for more sell-offs. Each share in Rolls-Royce was worth 692.6p, an almost 4.5% reduction on Monday’s closing price.

Mr Singer did not give any reason for his departure.

“Since I joined the board nearly four years ago, Rolls-Royce has undertaken many significant initiatives and faced challenges head on,” he said.

“The company is today on a solid path forward.”

However, it comes as Rolls-Royce battles problems with its Trent 1000 engines.

In August, rating agency Moody’s downgraded the company’s credit score, making it more expensive for Rolls-Royce to borrow money.

Later, the business said it had been forced to remove more engines from planes than expected, after one fell apart above an Italian town, raining metal down to the ground.

It will take until halfway through 2020 before fewer than 10 aircraft are grounded, the company has said.

The problems have already racked up enormous costs for the business, causing George Salmon, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, to say that shareholders will need to show a lot of “trust and understanding”.

In October, investor Harris Associates revealed it had built up a 5% stake in the firm.

Chairman Ian David said on Tuesday that Mr Singer had “played a key role … offering a valued external perspective”.

“I and all my colleagues have appreciated Brad’s insight and commitment to the company,” he added.

Mr Singer joined the company in 2016.