By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) -Danone’s new chief executive said on Tuesday the French food group has no plans to sell any of its three businesses, after its shares rose last week on a report of merger interest from dairy group Lactalis.
CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique said last month that there was “nothing wrong” with Danone’s businesses — dairy and plant-based products, infant formula and bottled water — a view he reiterated at Tuesday’s annual shareholder meeting.
“Our category portfolio is growing as it is in line with consumer’ expectations. We have no plan to part with them regardless of what rumours say,” Saint-Affrique said.
An April 20 report in business newspaper La Lettre A said unlisted French dairy firm Lactalis had for months been studying a possible full or partial takeover of Danone.
Saint-Affrique said that the key to boosting sales growth was improving execution, investing in worthwhile brands and innovation and disposing of underperforming assets.
Saint-Affrique, at the helm since September, replaced former Danone boss Emmanuel Faber, who was abruptly ousted as chairman and CEO in March 2021 following clashes with some board members over strategy and calls from activist funds for him to resign.
CHANGING THE GUARD
At Tuesday’s shareholders meeting, Franck Riboud, a former group chairman and CEO and son of Danone’s founder, Antoine Riboud, officially stepped down as a board member after 30 years.
This is part of a governance overhaul unveiled in July 2021 that will see most of the group’s veterans progressively go, clearing the path for the new CEO Saint-Affrique.
Riboud is however staying on as Honorary Chairman.
A proposal by a group of shareholders representing 0.8% of Danone’s capital – and comprising Phitrust, Mirova, CAVP, ERAFP, Ircantec, and OFI Asset Management – to limit the role of Honorary Chairman failed to meet to the two-third majority vote required at the meeting.
It had in particular requested the Honorary Chairman may only “on an exceptional basis and with reasons” be invited to attend all or part of the board meetings, thus not routinely attend all the board meetings.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Tassilo Hummel, Alexander Smith and Keith Weir)