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Deals

Danone says focused on value after report activist fund Bluebell has taken a stake

FILE PHOTO: The logo of French food group Danone is seen at the company's headquarters in Paris, France, December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - Danone said on Monday it was focused on delivering value for its shareholders after a report by Challenges.fr that activist fund Bluebell Partners had taken a stake in the French company and was pushing for governance changes.

“The leadership team of the company is highly focused on delivering long-term sustainable value for our shareholders,” the company said in an emailed statement to Reuters, when asked about the Challenges.fr report.

According to Challenges.fr, Bluebell, which bought an undisclosed stake in Danone at the end of 2020, sent a letter to Danone’s management asking notably to split the chief executive and chairman roles and to replace current Chairman and CEO Emmanuel Faber.

Faber is under pressure to turn around performance at the producer of Evian bottled water and Actimel yoghurts after a 27% drop in the value of its shares last year, and with the company often touted as a potential target for suitors or activist shareholders.

In response, Danone in November announced a plan to cut up to 2,000 jobs, trim product ranges and reorganise its global business to become leaner and more agile in a post-COVID environment.

In December, Danone also named departing finance chief Cecile Cabanis to the newly created role of non-executive vice chairman and created a new strategy committee to beef up oversight of the French group.

“Instead of keeping the focus on ‘can/will this work’, the debate will shift towards ‘how long can the CEO last / what does he need to do to push this away’,” Bernstein analysts said in a note commenting on the Challenges.fr report

“That will be unhelpful for keeping the company focused. Maybe having the ex-CFO stay as vice-chairman may be useful after all,” they added.

Danone shares closed up 2% on Monday at 54.72 euros.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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