Activist investor Trian takes stake in Unilever as pressure builds on Alan Jope
Activist hedge fund Trian Partners has reportedly taken a stake in Unilever as investors continue to pile pressure on beleaguered boss Alan Jope, following the Marmite-maker’s failed takeover bids for GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer arm last year.
The $8.5bn New-York based hedge fund, led by billionaire investor Nelson Peltz, has built an undisclosed stake in the firm, The Financial Times reported citing sources close to the matter.
The stake in Unilever comes as the latest major consumer goods target for Trian, with previous targets including Mondelez International and Procter & Gamble.
Trian leveraged a $3.5bn stake in P&G to appoint Peltz to the board, where he successfully pushed for reorganisation of the firm’s “suffocating bureaucracy”. P&G’s share price rose around 85 power cent during his tenure on the board, according to FT.
Reports of Trian’s stake add to the woes of Unilever boss Alan Jope as he battles an investor exodus and a barrage of criticism following reports emerging of Unilever’s takeover bids.
Shares in Unilever plunged beyond 10% last week after the bids were revealed by The Sunday Times, and bosses were forced to into a strategy update on Monday to justify the move.
Unilever shares rallied after the firm backed down on raising its bid beyond £50bn on Wednesday.
Star stockpicker and Unilever shareholder Terry Smith rounded on Unilever management for the second time in two weeks as he attacked the board for the rebuffed bids for GSK’s consumer business.
In a letter to investors in his Fundsmith fund last week, he wrote: “It seems to us that Unilever’s management’s response to its poor performance has been to utter meaningless platitudes to which it has now attempted to add major M&A activity. What could possibly go wrong?”
Smith, whose firm owns an £814m position in the FTSE-100 Unilever, attacked the firm the week before the reports emerged of the takeover bid for “losing the plot” with its focus on purpose and sustainability.
In his letter to investors today he again attacked Unilever’s management for its “penchant for corporate gobbledegook”.
The firm faced separate attacks from a group of investors for its unhealthy food products last week. Eleven asset managers representing $215bn (£158bn) in assets attacked the firm for a health “blind spot” today as they filed a resolution calling on the Marmite-maker to set more ambitious health targets.