Activist investor provides twist in Unilever soap opera

Nelson Peltz has previously taken stake in rival consumer goods group Procter & Gamble

Unilever, which numbers Dove among its many consumer brands, has attracted the interest of activist investor Nelson Peltz. Photograph: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg

Unilever, which numbers Dove among its many consumer brands, has attracted the interest of activist investor Nelson Peltz. Photograph: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg

 

Shares in Unilever rose 6 per cent on Monday on reports that activist investor Nelson Peltz has built a stake in the consumer goods giant whose strategy is under scrutiny after a short-lived pursuit of GSK’s consumer healthcare arm.

Peltz’s hedge fund, Trian Partners, has built an unspecified stake in Unilever, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters. The New York-based fund is known for proposing operational changes at its portfolio companies which have previously included Procter & Gamble.

Unilever declined to comment on the investment. Shares of the owner of brands such as Dove soap, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Sunsilk shampoo were up 7.5 per cent at 3,952.5 pence by mid-afternoon, making it the biggest gainer on London’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index.

Unilever’s unexpected and ultimately unsuccessful £50 billion (€60 billion) of GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health business, which had it gone through would have been one of the largest ever deals on the London market, raised questions about Unilever’s plans under chief executive Alan Jope.

Peltz’s stake in Unilever “will not be that much of a surprise to industry specialists”, Barclays analysts said in a note, adding that his possible involvement with Unilever had been discussed long before the GSK skirmish.

“From Unilever’s perspective, the status quo is not an option. It would seem that the stars are aligning with both Unilever management and an activist pushing for more urgency,” they added. – Reuters