Starboard nominates 8 directors to Corteva's board, aims to oust CEO

(Reuters) - Activist investor Starboard Value LP said on Thursday it has nominated eight directors to the board of Corteva Inc, seeking to oust its chief executive officer and take control of the pesticide and seed maker.

FILE PHOTO: Jim Collins, CEO of Corteva Agriscience, speaks during an interview on CNBC on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Starboard, in its letter to Corteva’s chairman, said it had identified someone new for the top job, but declined to name the person.

Corteva’s chairman Greg Page said the board unanimously backed CEO Jim Collins.

The agricultural supplier said while it agreed with many points raised by Starboard, the activist investor had not discussed with the company the specific operational recommendations on how to improve performance.

“We believe we are at an important inflection point in our company’s trajectory as the extensive investments we have made to enhance productivity over the last 18 plus months will begin to accelerate their impact on earnings,” Page said.

Starboard CEO Jeffrey Smith last year criticized Corteva’s financial performance, noting its cash flow margin of 14.4% lags behind peers and that the share price could be closer to $55.

Corteva’s shares, which had risen 1.3% in early trading, fell about 2.5% to $42.57.

The company, like other agricultural suppliers, has struggled in recent years as excess grain supplies have hurt crop prices and low farmer incomes have made it tough for companies to raise prices for pesticides or seeds.

Corteva, which spun out of industrial conglomerate DowDupont in 2019, has shut down some facilities and recently said it would look to cut some more costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starboard is known for its operational know-how and often proposes to add new directors to a company’s board. It had won 17 board seats at four companies in the first half of 2020.

The activist investor owns 11.7 million shares, or a 1.6% stake, in Corteva, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Shounak Dasgupta and Amy Caren Daniel