Troubled Swiss-Irish bakery group Aryzta may have been the second-worst Iseq 20 performer last year, falling by about 36 per cent, but that didn't stop Zurich-based activist investor Veraison Capital getting in and (all but) out, doubling its money in the process.
Veraison, led by financier Gregor Greber, spent up to 33 million Swiss francs (€30.5 million) last spring building up a 9.81 per cent stake in the owner of Cuisine de France and international supplier to the likes of McDonald's, Subway and Lidl. This at a time when the first wave of Covid-19 lockdowns was hitting sales in a company that was only beginning to show signs of stabilisation after years of turmoil.
Veraison, quickly joining forces with another dissenting shareholder, Cobas Asset Management, agitated for asset sales and debt reduction and masterminded a boardroom coup that installed Swiss food industry veteran Urs Jordi as chairman, succeeding Irish corporate grandee Gary McGann.
Veraison more than recouped its investment by selling more than half its stake on the day the boardroom overhaul was completed at Aryzta’s annual general meeting last month. This raised 36.2 million francs and reduced its holding to 4.46 per cent.
It revealed on Tuesday that it sold about 4 per cent of Aryzta to two Swiss firms managing investments of wealthy families in the final days of 2020. This would have raised about 27.9 million francs, based on the prevailing share price – bringing total proceeds from stock sales to more than 64 million francs (€59 million).
While Veraison continues to hold a tiny stake worth about 3 million francs, it has effectively departed before the hard turnaround work it pushed for really begins.