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Berenberg has maintained its ‘buy’ rating for Endeavour Mining despite the surprise sacking of its chief executive S├ębastien de Montessus late on Thursday, saying that the gold miner could potentially be a takeover target.

Shares were down nearly 15% at 1,446p in morning trade after de Montessus was dismissed with immediate effect for “serious misconduct”.

The sacking follows an investigation by the board into “an irregular payment instruction issued by him in relation to an asset disposal undertaken by the company”. The amount of the payment instruction is $5.9m and Endeavour said the board recently became aware of it in the course of a review of acquisitions and disposals, which is ongoing.

“This comes as unexpected news,” said Berenberg in a flash research note on Friday morning.

“Mr de Montessus has been well regarded by investors in his role as CEO and played an instrumental part in making Endeavour Mining a successful, FTSE 100 gold-mining business. We view the news as negative for the shares.”

The company has appointed Ian Cockerill – currently deputy chair of the board – as CEO and executive director with immediate effect.

The broker has given Endeavour shares a target price of 2,400p, based on the stock trading at 1.5 times net asset value and 8 times EV/EBITDA.

“We would also note that, in a period of instability and share price weakness, there is scope for Endeavour, which has attractive growth and, a strong balance sheet, to become an M&A target, although the appointment of Mr Cockerill as CEO with immediate effect is likely to offset this to an extent.”