PepsiCo CFO Hugh Johnston has insisted a takeover of Mondelez International would be “too risky” after calls from activist investor Nelson Peltz to carry out the deal.
Peltz has urged PepsiCo to acquire the owner of Cadbury and Oreo and then spin off its drinks operations, which includes Pepsi cola and Tropicana. The investor has questioned whether PepsiCo should have faster-growing snacks operations and slower-growth drinks businesses in its portfolio.
Speaking to Fox Business, Johnston dismissed the idea and claimed PepsiCo was on the right track.
“We feel like this portfolio is working so well right now and the idea of taking on an US$80bn acqusition and going through all the risk of integration and paying a premium for that business would probably create value for Mondelez shareholders but I think it’s really too risky for PepsiCo shareholders. That’s why we’ve been pretty clear: we think we have the portfolio right, we’re not interested in doing large deals. We think by focusing on our portfolio [is] the best way to deliver value for shareholders.”
Peltz said last week PepsiCo was at a “strategic crossroads” with a business structure that was “increasingly unmanageable”.
He claimed the best way to maximise value at PepsiCo would be to merge with Mondelez, creating a leading global snacks company with one of the most valuable brand portfolios in the world.
If PepsiCo declined to buy Mondelez, an alternative, or “Plan B”, Peltz said, should be to separate beverages from the snacks business.
Speaking to analysts yesterday after PepsiCo issued its second-quarter results, CEO Indra Nooyi said the market should “look beyond the noise” about the company’s direction.
She said: “PepsiCo is an extremely well architected portfolio geographically. From a product perspective, we are hitting our stride. Every part of the business is functioning well and we do not need large scale M&A to deliver on our financial goals. We do have a strategy to focus on tuck-in acquisitions. We’ve said tuck-in acquisitions in any year will be US$500m or less. And that’s all we are focused on.”
Another shareholder in PepsiCo, investment vehicle BlackRock, has issued public support for PepsiCo’s management.
In an interview with CNBC, BlackRock chairman and CEO Larry Fink said Trian had done a “good job finding value” but suggested its analysis took a short-term view of the company. “Indra Nooyi has done a very good job of reorientating PepsiCo… I question how [Trian’s plan] would add long-term value.”