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Danone Appoints Outgoing CFO To Board, Boosts COVID Crisis Oversight

By Maev Martin
Danone Appoints Outgoing CFO To Board, Boosts COVID Crisis Oversight

Danone named departing finance chief Cecile Cabanis to the newly created role of non-executive vice chairman on Monday and created a new strategy committee to beef up oversight of the French group amid lagging sales and profit margins.

Chief Executive Emmanuel Faber is under pressure to turn around performance at the producer of Evian bottled water and Actimel yoghurts after a near 30% drop in the value of its shares this year and with the company often touted as a potential target for suitors or activist shareholders.

The new strategy and transformation committee, under the chairmanship of Air Liquide CEO Benoit Potier, will oversee plans announced last month to cut up to 2,000 jobs, trim product ranges and reorganise Danone's global business to become leaner and more agile in a post-COVID environment..

The company also proposed Gilles Schnepp, Ariane Gorin, and Susan Roberts as new independent board members on Monday.

'Management Shake-Up'

The appointment of Cabanis, who Danone said in October would be replaced as CFO by Juergen Esser as part of a management shake-up, drew criticism, however.

"We view these developments as positive in aggregate but view the elevation of immediate former CFO Cecile Cabanis to Vice-Chair as a retrograde move in the context of the increased level of independence at the head of the board that we think the market is looking for," Jefferies analysts wrote.

By 0940 GMT Danone shares were 0.4% higher at €52.66.

Danone is looking at strategic options for its Argentina business and its plant-based North American brand Vega, which have combined sales of about 500 million euros, and has said it will later conduct a more in-depth portfolio review to prune underperforming assets.

Faber, now in his sixth year as CEO, has pursued a strategy centered on diversifying the group's portfolio into fast-growing products featuring probiotics, protein and plant-based ingredients to mitigate slower growth in dairy.

However, the coronavirus disruption has hampered turnaround efforts.

News by Reuters edited by Donna Ahern, Checkout. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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