In a letter released to investors last month, Dan Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point announced that it owns approximately 40 million shares in Switzerland-based Nestle SA, according to a recentBloomberg article, referring to the $3.5 billion stake as “the biggest bet of his two-decade career as an activist investor.”
According to the article, the move is the latest in a recent push by Loeb into Europe due to “an improved economic outlook and declining political risks in the region.” His stake in Nestle, it says, “ratchets up pressure on the European consumer goods industry”—citing the failed effort earlier this year by Kraft Heinz to acquire Unilever, and Danone SA’s plan to sell the Stonyfield yogurt business after acquiring soy milk maker White Wave.
Third Point’s investment also shines a light on Nestle’s new CEO Mark Schneider in the wake of extremely disappointing sales growth in 2016 (the slowest pace in at least a decade) and a sluggish share price. According to Bloomberg, Schneider has “already started shifting the company’s priorities toward healthier food and faster-growing businesses since taking the helm on Jan. 1. Nestle said this month it may sell its U.S. chocolate and candy unit, which includes brands such as Butterfinger and Baby Ruth.”
While Third Point is supportive of the company’s plans to divest the confectionary business, the article says it has urged Schneider to “articulate a ‘bold’ action plan that addresses Nestle’s ‘staid culture and tendency towards incrementalism.'”