Ferguson surges as activist fund Trian takes 6% stake

(Reuters) - Activist fund Trian Fund Management LP said it has built up a 6% stake in Ferguson Plc, disclosing the investment days after the British plumbing products company reported disappointing results and slowing growth in its biggest market.

Nelson Peltz founding partner of Trian Fund Management LP. speak at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Ferguson shares jumped 8.5% to an 8-month high on the news, topping London’s FTSE 100 blue chip index.

Owned by billionaire U.S. investor Nelson Peltz, Trian is among the best known U.S. activist hedge funds which take stakes in companies they view as undervalued and force major changes to generate returns for shareholders.

Trian said it had acquired a stake worth 736 million pounds ($934 million) - becoming Ferguson’s second-biggest shareholder - because it felt the company was an attractive investment trading at a discount to peers in the United States.

It gave no details on its strategy for Ferguson, saying only it had already been in contact with management.

“Trian...looks forward to working with them to explore and implement initiatives that it believes can create long-term shareholder value,” the fund’s Trian Investors 1 Ltd unit said in a statement.

Ferguson welcomes dialogue with Trian as it does with all shareholders, the plumbing company said in a statement.

Ferguson’s performance has been under pressure this year as growth in the United States, its largest market, has slowed.

The company, formerly known as Wolseley, on Monday announced a $500 million share repurchase after reporting third quarter sales fell short of targets. Its shares are up 5% this year after falling 11% in 2018.

Trian’s stake makes it Ferguson’s second-largest shareholder behind BlackRock Investment Management (UK) which owns a 10.46% stake, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Reporting by Shariq Khan and Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Gopakumar Warrier and Deepa Babington