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Pepsi urged to buy snack giant, split off drink unit

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PepsiCo sales have struggled in North America despite a boost in marketing for its flagship beverage.

TOBY TALBOT / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

PepsiCo sales have struggled in North America despite a boost in marketing for its flagship beverage.

NEW YORK -- Activist investor Nelson Peltz says he wants soda-and-snack food giant PepsiCo to buy Oreo cookie maker Mondelez and jettison its own underperforming beverage unit.

Such a deal would create a global snack-food powerhouse, bringing together salty bites such as Cheetos, Doritos and Lay's potato chips with sweet treats such as Cadbury chocolates and Trident gum.

During an interview Wednesday on CNBC, Peltz of Trian Fund Management said he talked about the proposal he called "Plan A" with PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. He said he has a meeting planned with Mondelez CEO Irene Rosenfeld in the next couple of weeks.

"Pepsi right now doesn't love the deals," Peltz conceded. He then urged shareholders to write to the company in support of his proposal.

Under the deal he outlined, PepsiCo would pay $35 to $38 per share for Mondelez.

Mondelez International Inc. shares rose 64 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $30.50 and added another 30 cents in after-hours trading. PepsiCo Inc. shares rose $1.22, or 1.5 per cent, to finish at $85.24.

Peltz is known for building stakes in companies, then forcing change. In 2008, for example, he led a group of investors in pressuring Cadbury Schweppes to split its candy and its weaker beverage business, which later became Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. He was also an active investor in Kraft Foods Group Inc. before its split from Mondelez.

As of March 31, Peltz had a $1.23-billion stake in Mondelez and a $951.8-million stake in PepsiCo, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Although it's best known for its sodas, PepsiCo is also the world's biggest salty snacks maker. If it were to spin off its beverage unit, analysts have speculated the company would want to gobble up another company to remain as big as it is today.

Even if the Mondelez acquisition weren't to happen, Peltz said his "Plan B" would be to have PepsiCo nevertheless disentangle its promising-snacks business from its lacklustre soda business. Otherwise, he said its snacks would always be overshadowed by its drinks, which have perennially trailed Coca-Cola Co.

The proposals by Peltz highlight the pressures PepsiCo has been under to improve results in its beverage unit. The company, based in Purchase, N.Y., has significantly stepped up marketing for its flagship soda. It signed a wide-ranging deal with pop star Beyonc©, as well as a multi-year contract to sponsor the Super Bowl. But the efforts have yet to pay off, with sales volume in North America remaining a drag on the company.

"Pepsi is at a crossroads," Peltz said.

In a statement, PepsiCo said it was making "significant progress" against its goals and that it was confident in its ability to deliver value as "an integrated food and beverage company."

The company is set to report second-quarter results next week.

Mondelez has also struggled after separating from Kraft Foods last October. The company's first few quarters as an independent company have been disappointing and Rosenfeld has admitted that she made some missteps out of the gate. During the CNBC interview, Peltz said he thought Rosenfeld was "running out of time" with investors.

Mondelez said in a statement that it looks forward to meeting with Trian Fund Management about its ideas in greater detail.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2013 B7

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