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Unilever shares bounce as activist investor Nelson Peltz joins board

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Unilever makes some of the world’s most famous food brands (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Archive)
Unilever makes some of the world’s most famous food brands (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Archive)

The markets welcomed the appointment of US activist investor Nelson Peltz to the board of Unilever on Tuesday as analysts speculated it could bring a shake-up at the consumer giant.

The maker of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise among others, said that Mr Peltz would join the board after the firm he runs took a stake worth tens of millions.

He was credited with bringing a strong hand to Procter & Gamble, the US consumer goods giant where he was chairman until last year.

Reports have been swirling since January that the activist investor was building a stake in the firm, with shares jumping whenever his name was mentioned.

We look forward to working collaboratively with management and the board to help drive Unilever’s strategy, operations, sustainability, and shareholder value for the benefit of all stakeholders

Nelson Peltz

The confirmation on Tuesday that Trian Fund Management has built a 1.5% stake in the company pushed shares up again. Mr Peltz is a founding member of Trian.

By late morning in London shares in Unilever had risen by more than 6%.

“I am delighted to be joining the board of Unilever,” Mr Peltz said.

“We believe it is a company with significant potential, through leveraging its portfolio of strong consumer brands and its geographical footprint.

“Trian has made a considerable investment in Unilever.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with management and the board to help drive Unilever’s strategy, operations, sustainability, and shareholder value for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

It remains to be seen what could come next for the London-listed giant.

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: “Unilever has given in to the pressure and handed activist investor Nelson Peltz a seat on its board.

“The consumer goods firm has been struggling in the wake of the failed takeover of GSK Consumer Health and investors have welcomed the move warmly.

“Inviting Peltz in is only likely to ramp up the pressure on beleaguered chief executive Alan Jope and we may now see the company advance plans to streamline the business and address governance concerns.”

Mr Peltz has a history of investment in consumer goods companies, having taken stakes in everything from Cadbury to Pepsi and Schweppes.

He was on the board of Heinz and Mondelez as well as his role at Procter & Gamble. One of his daughters is married to the son of David and Victoria Beckham.

Nils Andersen, chairman of Unilever, said: “We are pleased to be welcoming Nelson to the Unilever board.

“We have held extensive and constructive discussions with him and the Trian team and believe that Nelson’s experience in the global consumer goods industry will be of value to Unilever as we continue to drive the performance of our business.”

Unilever has around 400 brands in its portfolio, many of which are household names.

Axe deodorant, Knorr stock cubes, Magnum ice cream, Vaseline and Domestos are all Unilever products.

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