Exclusive: Fidelity moves to end DuPont proxy battle-sources

Mon Mar 30, 2015 7:18am EDT
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By Nadia Damouni and Mike Stone

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fidelity Investments, a major investor in DuPont (DD.N: Quote), has put pressure on activist fund Trian Fund Management LP and the chemical conglomerate to reach a settlement in what it sees as a detrimental proxy fight, according to people close to the matter.

Fidelity, whose 2.5 percent stake makes it DuPont's sixth largest shareholder, has not publicly revealed what sort of compromise it was seeking. Yet its unusual intervention as peacemaker could influence other mutual fund investors in DuPont and pre-empt what could be this year's biggest battle over board representation.

In a filing with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission last Wednesday, Trian disclosed that on March 11 it received a call from one of DuPont's largest stockholders encouraging Trian and the company to resolve the proxy contest and avoid a costly and disruptive conflict. It did not disclose the name of that investor, but those familiar with the matter said it was Fidelity, the second largest U.S. mutual fund company.

A Fidelity spokesman declined to comment. DuPont and Trian reiterated their positions, but declined to comment on Fidelity's involvement.

"Since 2009, DuPont has been executing a transformational strategy that is delivering superior results," a DuPont spokeswoman said.

"In direct contrast, Trian has a singular, value-destructive agenda to break up and add excessive debt to DuPont, which we believe would put shareholder value at risk," she added.

A Trian spokeswoman rejected the criticism.

"We have met recently with many of DuPont's largest stockholders and our ideas clearly resonate with them," she said. "We believe that Trian's presence on the board will help to drive sales, margins, and earnings growth at a company where EPS (earnings per share) is expected to be lower in 2015 than in 2011 for the fourth year in a row."   Continued...

A pedestrian walks past a stock ticker at a Fidelity Investments office in Boston, Massachusetts July 31, 2013.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder