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Food Group Danone Should Split CEO, Chair Role, Shareholder Says

Investment company Artisan Partners has demanded corporate governance and strategic changes at Danone, including separation of the French food group's chairman and chief executive roles, adding more pressure to Danone's boss.

The move by Artisan Partners, which says it has a stake of more than 3% in Danone, follows a similar demand by activist investor Bluebell, which last month called on Danone's chief executive Emmanuel Faber to step down.

Artisan said it had written a letter to Danone independent board member Gilles Schnepp to outline its concerns and was in contact with industry executive Jan Bennink to work on a plan to improve Danone.

"The roles of chairman and CEO must be separated," Artisan Partners wrote.

Faber has been Danone chief executive since 2014 and took on the chairman's role as well three years later.

He has taken steps to try to ward off criticism from activist investors, as the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated Danone's outlook and hit its sales to the restaurant sector, since many bars and restaurants have been shut in the crisis.

Restructuring Plan

Last November, Danone announced a plan to cut 2,000 jobs and trim back its range of products.

Nevertheless, funds such as Artisan and Bluebell feel Danone could do better, with Danone's shares having fallen nearly 30% in 2020.

"Our attraction to Danone is very simple: It has one of the best collections of assets in the global food industry," wrote Artisan in its letter, which it published on Thursday.

"Unfortunately, the financial performance of Danone is not consistent with the quality of its assets. On almost every measure, Danone's performance has lagged," added Artisan.

Local First

In December, Danone announced a new 'Local First' governance plan, which sought to shift to a more indepdendently-managed business, as well as foster 'sustainable value creation'.

"“I believe strengthened governance will play a key role in the successful roll-out of our Local First plan, and I’m delighted that proposals to achieve this have been unanimously approved by the Board," Faber said at the time. [Pic:©Moovstock/123RF.COM]

News by Reuters, edited by ESM. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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