Procter & Gamble targeted by Peltz proxy fight

U.S. consumer products giant Procter & Gamble (PG) Monday became the target of potentially the largest-ever proxy fight.

Nelson Peltz's Trian Partners, owner of $3.3 billion P&G shares, announced preliminary plans to seek a board seat for the activist investor at the company that makes Crest toothpaste, Gillette razors, Pampers diapers, Tide laundry detergent and many other familiar household brands.

Calling P&G's financial results over the last decade "disappointing," Trian cited weak shareholder returns, deteriorating market share and excessive cost and bureaucracy in the Securities and Exchange Commission filing that announced the challenge. However, Trian did not call for a breakup of the company.

"While P&G leadership says they are addressing the underperformance issue, shareholders have heard similar promises in the past and results have not improved," Trian said in the filing. "Trian believes P&G must take decisive action that goes above and beyond what P&G  has presently committed to do."

In response, Cincinnati-based P&G said it has "maintained an active and constructive dialogue" with the Peltz-led partnership since Trian made its investment in the company.

"P&G’s Board and management team are keenly focused on executing the company's strategy to drive innovation, accelerate organic sales and volume growth, improve productivity and cost structure, and strengthen P&G's organization and culture," the company said in a formal statement. "The board is confident that the changes being made are producing results, and expresses complete support for the company's strategy, plans, and management."

Could Procter & Gamble be the next Kodak?

P&G shares were fractionally lower at $86.82 in Monday morning trading.

The company has a market value of roughly $222.7 billion, based on the number of outstanding shares as of late March.

The outcome of the proxy fight is unclear, as both sides jockey for investor support. P&G is expected to hold its annual shareholder meeting in October.

Trian said P&G has underperformed the S&P 500 and the company's corporate peers over the last decade. However, P&G shares are up 5.2% year to date, based on Friday's closing price.

Company executives have been implementing a strategy to sell off lower-selling brands and refocus P&G on its 65 top-selling labels, including Pampers and Tide. For the last two years, executives urged investors to be patient.

However, absent strong growth more than five years into the strategy, P&G represented a large target for dissatisfied Wall Street investors.

Nonetheless, an updated note to investors by Deutsche Bank Markets Research characterized Trian's proxy plan "as a sign that (P&G) management is confident in its strategy and is unlikely to miss expectations over at least the next few months."

Bill Ackman sells off P&G stake

The company successfully battled a similar financial shake-up effort launched by billionaire activist investor William Ackman in 2012. Once the company's largest investor with a 1% stake, Ackman sold off the last of that investment in May 2014.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kevin McCoy on Twitter: @kmccoynyc

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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