Activist investor trying to block Aryzta’s €800m share sale

Larius Capital says Cuisine De France owner should sell assets and cut management layers

Aryzta makes burger buns for clients including McDonald’s. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

Aryzta makes burger buns for clients including McDonald’s. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

 

A Swiss activist investor is mounting a campaign to block Aryzta’s €800 million share sale, arguing the troubled McDonald’s bun maker should instead sell assets and slash management layers, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Gregor Joos aims to amass a stake of at least 3 per cent through his investment company Larius Capital AG, the people said, asking not to be identified because the campaign hasn’t been announced publicly. The fund is seeking co-investors and may try to reach 10 per cent through alliances with other shareholders, they said.

Aryzta’s management has failed to turn the company around, Mr Joos has told chairman Gary McGann. In a letter seen by Bloomberg, he said the Irish company should sell its ailing North American business and its 49 per cent stake in French frozen-food company Picard, urging Aryzta to focus more on Europe.

An Aryzta spokesman confirmed the letter was received and declined to comment further.

Campaigns

The activist has been involved in campaigns against Swiss asset manager GAM, Credit Suisse and Gategroup through RBR Capital Advisors, where he was a partner.

Aryzta has lost about three-quarters of its value this year as it tries to reduce a mounting debt load. The company had net debt of €1.6 billion at the end of January. It has been trying to sell its stake in Picard without success, and has made multiple profit warnings due to lost contracts and rising costs.

Mr Joos also said in the letter that the company should engage in zero-based budgeting, an accounting concept made popular by 3G Capital, which forces managers to justify every expense, even as often as each quarter.

Aryzta earlier this week nominated three new independent directors to its board while entering into a consultancy agreement with director Jim Leighton.

Mr Leighton, who joined the board at the 2017 agm, has been providing advice on Aryzta’s three-year, €200 million cost-reduction plan and can therefore no longer be considered independent.

– Bloomberg