THE chief executive of De La Rue is stepping down to take charge of an events and communications company.

Tim Cobbold, who was brought in to turn around the Basingstoke-headquartered banknote printer three years ago, will leave the company on March 29, ready to take up his position as chief executive of UMB plc in May.

Mr Cobbold, 51, said: “I am very proud of what the De La Rue team has achieved over the past three years.

“The business is much stronger today with a significantly improved financial performance, and is well placed for the future.”

Headhunters have been appointed to search for a new chief executive and will work with the board’s nomination committee to identify suitable internal and external candidates.

Following Mr Cobbold’s resignation, Philip Rogerson, non-executive chairman, will be appointed executive chairman until a new chief executive joins the board.

Mr Rogerson, who will chair De La Rue’s executive committee, will be supported by Colin Child, group finance director, who will be appointed chief operating officer on a similar temporary basis.

Mr Rogerson said: “I would like to record the board’s appreciation of Tim’s significant contribution over the past three years, and to wish him well with his future career.

“He leaves De La Rue as a stronger, healthier and more dynamic company than when he joined, and with strong forward momentum underpinned by a good R&D pipeline and order book.”

Mr Cobbold’s resignation comes at a tough time for De La Rue which is tendering for the continuation of the Bank of England printing contract.

But times were even tougher when Mr Cobbold was appointed to his role in late 2010. Back then the company was reeling from production problems at its Overton plant, while fighting off a near-£900million takeover approach from French rival Oberthur.

During Mr Cobbold’s time at the helm of the FTSE 250 listed company, its fortunes have been boosted, from a £40m operating profit in 2011 to an expected operating profit of around £90m for the 2013-14 financial year – for the year ending March 29, 2014.

However, due to difficult trading conditions, this will be £10m below a three-year target set out in De La Rue’s Improvement Plan introduced in 2010-11.

Last year, the company, whose head office is in Jays Close, Viables, received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

It prints banknotes for 150 currencies around the world, produces a range of security documents and makes sophisticated, high-speed cash sorting and inspection equipment.