Activist investor Nelson Peltz builds stake in Unilever

Nelson Peltz’s activist hedge fund Trian Partners has built a stake in Unilever, ratcheting up the pressure on the FTSE 100 company after its abortive pursuit of GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health business, Financial Times reported.

People with direct knowledge of the matter told the Financial Times that the $8.5 billion New York-based hedge fund had taken a position in the UK group’s shares, adding to the challenges facing chief executive Alan Jope.

The Unilever boss is already facing simmering shareholder discontent after its 50 billion pounds attempted takeover of GSK Consumer Health. He now confronts a fierce activist fund known for demanding streamlining and governance reforms at consumer goods groups including Procter & Gamble, Sysco and Mondelez, the report said.

The turmoil has shifted attention to the performance of Jope, who has been chief executive for three years at the company best known for brands such as Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise. Investors have called on him to deliver stronger results but he must now do so with a shareholder base that has signalled it is wary of dealmaking being used to shift the company towards higher growth products, the report said.

Unilever marks the latest position in the consumer goods sector for Trian, which was founded in 2005 by Peltz, Ed Garden and Peter May. At P&G Peltz stepped down from the board last year, four years after acquiring a stake worth more than $3 billion and battling to simplify its corporate structure. P&G’s shares rose about 85 per cent during that time and the US group followed through on Trian’s demands to simplify its structure in 2018, the report said.

While Peltz’s campaigns have not always been successful, he has helped to shape some of the consumer sector’s largest companies. He failed to persuade PepsiCo to acquire Oreo maker Mondelez, but played a role in Kraft’s acquisition of Cadbury and subsequent spin-off of the chocolate maker and other snacks brands in the form of Mondelez, Financial Times reported.




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