Blog: Dean BestThe overhaul at Cadbury

Dean Best | 19 June 2007

Investor activism got a shot in the arm in London today (19 June) when Cadbury Schweppes unveiled plans to overhaul its confectionery business.

Cadbury, led by CEO Todd Stitzer, was at pains to insist that the company’s moves – which involve the loss of around 7,800 jobs, the closure of a number of manufacturing sites and a greater focus on its core brands – were not a reaction to pressure from unhappy shareholders.

Stitzer insisted the plans were two years’ in the making. He maintained the company hadn’t kowtowed to investors who believed Cadbury’s confectionery business was under-performing and who wanted to split it from the UK group’s drinks business across the Atlantic.

Nevertheless, no matter how much Cadbury insists these plans had been drawn up over many months, the fact remains that it first announced its intentions almost immediately after activist investor Nelson Peltz began amassing a stake in the company.

Whether or not Peltz had any direct influence in Cadbury’s decisions, it seems his stake-building was the catalyst for the company to get down to work.

And tomorrow another household name in the UK, retail giant Sainsbury’s, could face questions over recent moves by a Qatari investment group to take a 25% stake in the company.

Speculation has grown that Sainsbury’s could face renewed pressure to sell off parts of its valuable property portfolio. The Qatari group has links to property tycoon and Sainsbury’s investor Robert Tchenguiz, who is known to advocate selling off the property to boost shareholder returns.

Sainsbury’s would no doubt have noted the Cadbury announcement today with great interest.


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