Peltz blasts PepsiCo again, seeks details on operations, strategy

Thu Mar 13, 2014 7:37pm EDT

Nelson Peltz, one of the principles of the Trian Group, addresses the audience at the H.J. Heinz Co. annual shareholder's meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania August 16, 2006. REUTERS/Jason Cohn

Nelson Peltz, one of the principles of the Trian Group, addresses the audience at the H.J. Heinz Co. annual shareholder's meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania August 16, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Cohn

(Reuters) - Activist investor Nelson Peltz, who has been pushing PepsiCo Inc (PEP.N) to separate its beverage and snacks businesses, blasted the company yet again on Thursday and demanded answers on operational issues and its corporate strategy.

Peltz's Trian Fund Management, which owns nearly 1 percent of PepsiCo's stock, has been urging the company to split its flourishing snacks division from its sluggish beverage business to create "two leaner and more entrepreneurial companies."

Peltz, in a letter to PepsiCo's board on Thursday, demanded the company give details about its expenses and provide volume growth and market share data for all its beverage categories in North America.

He also called for a meeting of shareholders and board members without the presence of PepsiCo's management.

In an email response to Peltz's latest letter, PepsiCo said two of its board members had already met with Trian without management present. "The board has thoroughly reviewed Trian's proposals and has concluded that they would not maximize shareholder value," PepsiCo said.

The company, known for beverages like Pepsi, Tropicana and Gatorade, also sells snacks such as Lays, Cheetos and Doritos chips, among others.

PepsiCo, like rival Coca-Cola Co (KO.N), has been battling declining soda sales in developed markets, especially the United States, as health-conscious consumers switch to non-carbonated beverages such as juices and health drinks.

Peltz, in his latest letter, also asked PepsiCo to outline plans for its bottling operations, which have been a drag on the company's performance.

"Last fall, management told us that the acquisitions were 'a mistake' and the bottling system was 'in disarray' when the bottlers were acquired, yet we believe the system is operating far less efficiently today," Peltz wrote.

He asked PepsiCo to explain why it believed spending $240 million on renovating its headquarters was better than investing in raising its bottling capacity and launching more package sizes to compete better with Coca-Cola.

" ... In a recent phone conversation, CEO Indra Nooyi acknowledged that PepsiCo is indeed behind Coke in alternative package sizes but argued that catching up would require significant capital investment," Peltz wrote.

He urged the company to cut costs by reducing the number of its headquarters to two from four and invest the savings in price, marketing, innovation and packaging.

Peltz criticized PepsiCo Presiding Director Ian Cook's response to his earlier letter sent in February.

"The dismissive tone of his letter suggests that you do not appreciate the degree to which PepsiCo's shareholders are frustrated," Peltz wrote on Thursday.

Cook, in his response late in February, reiterated PepsiCo's stance that its board and management were "comfortable" and in "complete alignment" on rejecting Peltz's demands.

The company has rejected Peltz's proposals several times, calling them "costly distractions that will harm shareholder interests."

A Wall Street survey conducted by Bernstein Research and released earlier this month showed that a majority of institutional investors, including PepsiCo's shareholders, support a split.

PepsiCo's shares closed little changed at $81.80 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bangalore; Editing by Kirti Pandey)

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