Tuesday 10 July 2018 12:17 pm

Pressure grows on Premier Foods boss as activist investor builds stake

The pressure on under-fire Premier Foods chief executive officer (CEO) Gavin Darby has increased today after activist investor Oasis Investment upped its stake in the company.

Hong Hong-based Oasis has been vocal in its opposition to Darby who it accuses of “shareholder value destruction”.

Read more: Paulson triples stake in Premier Foods as AGM showdown approaches

It wants Darby to stand down and has called for the sale of the Batchelors brand of instant foods which includes products such as Super Noodles, Cup a Soup and Pasta n’ Sauce.

According to a regulatory filing, Oasis has increased its stake in Premier to 17.3 per cent, having previously held a 9.3 per cent share.

This follows investment manager Paulson & Co tripling its stake in the company on Friday from just under two per cent to 6.08 per cent.

Paulson has backed calls for Darby to resign, angered by the refusal to do a deal with US spices giant McCormick in 2016 at a much better share price than the company has today.

Together the two rebels hold 24 per cent of the company’s shares ahead of its annual general meeting next Wednesday.

Read more: Activist investor tells Premier Foods to sell Batchelors

A spokesperson for Oasis said: “Our increased stake demonstrates our deep commitment and belief in the potential of Premier Foods, as well as our belief that, under a different CEO, the company will be in a better position finally to capitalise on its many options for long term shareholder value creation.”

Darby has received the backing of the company’s board, the trustees of its pensions funds and retail grandees Lord MacLaurin – who chaired Tesco and Vodafone – and Lord Price – who was was managing director of Waitrose and then a government trade minister.

 

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