Danone aims to narrow down CEO search in May - source

PARIS, April 22 (Reuters) - France’s Danone, the maker of Activia yoghurt, is homing in on several candidates to replace ousted chief executive Emmanuel Faber and is aiming to narrow that down to a shortlist of two names in May, a source close to the matter said.

Antoine de Saint-Affrique, who announced on Thursday he was stepping down from Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut at the end of August, is among the four to five candidates the group is now looking at, the source added.

Asked whether he was a candidate, De Saint-Affrique said in a statement to Reuters that he had yet to leave Barry Callebaut.

“For the next five months, as I told analysts and journalists this morning, cacao and chocolate will remain my only concern,” De Saint-Affrique said.

Two other sources familiar with the management discussions at Danone said the group was not ready to pick a new CEO in time for its April 29 annual shareholder meeting.

Danone’s former Chairman and CEO Faber was ejected by Danone’s board in March, following growing calls from activist shareholders to replace him after the group’s sales growth and share price performance became sluggish compared to rivals.

The company has made it clear it wants an external candidate for the CEO job, and someone with operational experience in the food industry.

Danone appointed director Gilles Schnepp as non-executive chairman in the management shake-up, and two internal managers as interim CEOs. (Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic, Dominique Vidalon and Sarah White; Editing by Jan Harvey)