Ms Hrdlicka, who will be replaced by former chief executive Geoffrey Babidge on an interim basis, said she was delighted with A2’s progress during her 18 months in charge but that travel associated with expanding into China and the US over the next five years were greater than she had anticipated.
“The board and I agreed that this next phase is going to be too difficult to manage alongside my other commitments whilst also managing the health and wellness priorities of my family and me,” Ms Hrdlicka said on Monday.
The company’s ASX-listed shares slipped 5.23 per cent to $13.78 in the first 25 minutes of trade following the news.
Ms Hrdlicka, who initially took the reins from Mr Babidge in July 2018, caused a stir in September that year when she sold off $4 million worth of shares in a move she said was necessary to meet tax obligations.
Nonetheless, the company’s shares had climbed 40 per cent during her tenure – from $10.37 to $14.54 at Friday’s close – gaining 22.6 per cent in November alone on upgraded guidance.
A2 Milk shares dipped nearly 15 per cent in August after its 47 per cent rise in full-year profit disappointed traders, but the company recovered ground after boosting its FY20 earnings margin outlook to between 29 per cent and 30 per cent last month.
The company on Monday reaffirmed the improved earnings outlook amid anticipation of strong China and US sales campaigns.
Chairman David Hearn said the board fully endorsed the work Ms Hrdlicka had overseen but acknowledged A2 needed to develop a “refined strategy” in order to grow and expand overseas.
“The appointment of Geoffrey Babidge will ensure that the current strategies and plans endorsed by the board will continue to be implemented seamlessly during the period of transition to a new CEO,” Mr Hearn said.
The company has commenced a global search for a permanent replacement.
A2 said on Monday its China-based non-executive director Jesse Wu will assume a direct oversight role of business in the country.
A2 Milk – the first Australian producer to achieve the equivalent of SAMR registration in China in September 2017 – reported a 41 per cent full-year revenue increase to $NZ1.3 billion in August, with revenue from Asia increasing 74 per cent to $NZ405.7 million.
US sales grew 160 per cent to $NZ34.6 million for the year, although the segment had a earnings loss of $NZ44 million as A2 invested in distribution and brand awareness.
In China, A2’s earnings were up 52.4 per cent to $NZ123.9 million and A2 said the business was expanding its presence in mother and baby stores in the country.