By Greg Roumeliotis
(Reuters) - Hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co is building a stake in Emerson Electric Co <EMR.N> and is planning to push for changes, including a potential split-up of the U.S. industrial conglomerate, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
Emerson, which pursued an unsuccessful $29 billion acquisition bid for peer Rockwell Automation Inc <ROK.N> two years ago, has long been seen as a potential break-up candidate among investors and analysts. Its automation solutions business serves mostly industrial clients, while its remaining divisions cater primarily to commercial and residential markets.
D.E. Shaw is in the process of building a position in Emerson as it prepares to pressure the company to pursue a split and other changes, the sources said.
The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. D.E. Shaw and Emerson declined to comment.
Emerson shares ended trading up 3.4% to $64.40 on the news, giving the company a market capitalization of $41 billion.
Emerson, a diversified manufacturer with $17.4 billion in sales last year, provides dozens of industries with thousands of products, from tools and large industrial valves to refrigeration, lighting and climate control systems.
Emerson's strength is in process automation, helping power plants and factories in sectors such as mining and cement operate more efficiently. Its commercial and residential solutions businesses supplies products such as air conditioners and refrigeration systems. David Farr has served as the company's CEO since 2000.
Were Emerson to agree to break up, it would be the latest industrial conglomerate to do so under pressure from an activist shareholder. General Electric Co <GE.N> has shed many of its divisions following pressure from Trian Fund Management LP, while ThyssenKrupp AG <TKAG.DE> agreed to split into two separate companies after being targeted by Elliott Management Corp.
D.E. Shaw has become more active as an activist shareholder in recent years, pursuing changes at companies such as oil and gas explorer EQT Corp <EQT.N> and grains trader Bunge Ltd <BG.N>. Quentin Koffey, who joined D.E. Shaw & Co two years ago from Elliott to lead its shareholder activism strategy, left in May to join Senator Investment Group LP.
(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)