A shakeup may be in the works at Unilever, the consumer goods giant behind brands like Dove soap, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Vaseline.
Unilever (UL) announced Monday that Nelson Peltz, one of the most influential corporate raiders on Wall Street, will join the company’s board of directors and disclosed that Peltz’s fund holds a 1.5% stake in Unilever (UL).
Peltz is an activist investor known for pushing under-performing companies to restructure, spin-off businesses and even break up. In the past, he has helped force changes at food and consumer giants such as Procter & Gamble (PG), Mondelez (MDLZ) and Wendy’s (WEN).
It’s not immediately clear what Peltz has planned for London-based Unilever, which has lagged rivals in recent years and made three failed bids to acquire GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health care business.
In January, Unilever said it was cutting 1,500 management jobs around the world and simplifying its business structure.
Some analysts have called for Unilever to split its food and drink brands from its home and personal care division.
Wall Street, however, is betting that Peltz will help transform Unilever. Shares rose 8% during early trading Tuesday. Analysts say the company needs a major revamp.
“Unilever has a double problem,” said AllianceBernstein analyst Bruno Monteyne. The company is in “structurally low growth categories” and investors have lost confidence in the board and management.
Monteyne expects Peltz to bring Unilever “back to basics” and focus on investing in innovation, adjusting executive compensation incentives and accelerating the pace of acquisitions and sales.
Unilever has been on Peltz’s radar for months. In January, the Financial Times reported that he acquired a stake in the company. On Monday, Unilever chair Nils Anderson said in a statement that the company has held “extensive and constructive discussions” with Peltz.