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Top-10 Unilever investor backs Peltz to bring urgency

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·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam
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By Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Germany's Flossbach von Storch, a top-10 shareholder in Unilever, is backing Nelson Peltz to bring urgency to the consumer goods giant, but doesn't expect major structural changes, it said on Thursday.

Billionaire activist investor Peltz will join Unilever's board in July, the company said on Tuesday, heaping pressure on the maker of Dove soap and Hellmann's mayonnaise as it reviews its strategy.

Unilever investors have been underwhelmed by the company's lacklustre share performance and an unsuccessful 50-billion-pound ($63-billion) bid to buy GSK's consumer healthcare arm in January.

"We share the approach Nelson Peltz has brought forward at other companies," founder and board member Bert Flossbach said in an emailed statement.

"With Unilever, as well, it is more about constant improvements of brand equity and execution and it is less about a big structural change like a large scale acquisition."

Peltz, who runs New York-based Trian, is known for his interest in consumer-oriented firms and proposing operational changes at the hedge fund's portfolio companies. He has previously been on the boards of Procter & Gamble Co, Mondelez and Heinz.

Flossbach expects a "sense of urgency regarding the newly created responsibilities in the management team and the new segment line up," he said.

According to Refinitiv Eikon data, Cologne-based Flossbach von Storch is Unilever's eighth-largest shareholder with a 1.01% stake that's currently worth 964 million pounds ($1.2 billion).

Flossbach has, in the past, argued Unilever could be more efficient if split up. His latest comments indicate shareholders will give management time to turn the business around.

"There is now a group of investors backing Unilever which is long term oriented and constructive. Unilever's management should see that as a plus," Flossbach said. "It is provided with the needed room for improvements without getting lost in short termism."

($1 = 0.7973 pounds)

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz Editing by Matt Scuffham and Mark Potter)

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