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(Bloomberg) -- Nestle SA, the world’s biggest food company, is being targeted by activist investor Dan Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point, according to people familiar with the matter.
Loeb has recently bought shares in the Vevey, Switzerland-based company as he seeks strategic changes, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. While the exact size of the stake couldn’t be confirmed, Nestle would be a formidable target with a market value of about $264 billion.
Representatives for Third Point declined to immediately comment while a representative for Nestle couldn’t immediately comment.
Third Point, better known for targeting U.S. and Japanese companies, has recently been drawn to European investment opportunities, according to the firm’s first quarter investor letter.
“We are seeing more opportunities in Europe because of strong and improving economic data, a trend that will likely continue now that the French elections have passed without incident,” Third Point wrote in the April 27 letter.
The move comes as Nestle’s new Chief Executive Officer Mark Schneider aims to boost the company’s health strategy as well as focus on the businesses that are growing fastest, such as coffee and pet food. Food companies are under pressure to reduce costs after Kraft Heinz Co.’s unsuccessful bid for Unilever earlier this year showed that even the largest players could become targets.
Chocolate makers especially are grappling with weak U.S. consumption as Americans increasingly turn their backs on sugar. Nestle said this month it may sell its U.S. sweets unit, which includes brands such as Butterfinger and BabyRuth.
Third Point has targeted European companies before. Vitamin maker Royal DSM NV also attracted the activist, and went on to sell its majority stake in a basic plastics and resins unit to CVC Capital Partners after facing calls to break up.
Founded in 1995 by Loeb, Third Point in April said it took a stake in Honeywell International Inc. and called for the industrial manufacturer to spin off its aerospace business.
--With assistance from Aaron Kirchfeld Dinesh Nair Ruth David and Corinne Gretler
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