Danone shares edge up as Faber drops CEO role after investor pressure

FILE PHOTO: Emmanuel Faber, chief executive officer of French food group Danone, poses before a news conference to present the company’s 2017 annual results in Paris, France, February 16, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) – Danone’s shares edged up on Tuesday after the French food group split the chairman and chief executive roles held by Emmanuel Faber and launched a search for a new CEO following calls from several shareholders to shake up governance.

Shares in Danone, the world’s biggest yoghurt maker and whose brands include Evian and Actimel, were up 0.6% in early trade.

Danone said late on Monday Faber would remain in the dual Chairman/CEO position until a new CEO was found and he would then become non-executive chairman.

Investment bank Jefferies said the move would be viewed positively by investors such as Artisan Partners, which had been pushing for change.

“However, Faber’s presence as chair alongside former CFO Cecile Cabanis as vice-chair is likely to constrain the latitude of any new CEO,” it said, keeping a “buy” rating on Danone.

Danone has been seeking to end pressure from investors over its share price and strategy, which has also led to unease at the board level.

Faber, in his seventh year as CEO, has focused on diversifying into fast-growing products featuring probiotics, protein and plant-based ingredients to counter slower growth in dairy.

Artisan Partners, now Danone’s third-largest shareholder with a roughly 3% stake, recently joined activist Bluebell Capital Partners in urging the firm to find a new CEO and speed up efforts to boost returns.

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