February 11, 2015 / 6:44 PM / 3 years ago

Peltz softens stance on splitting DuPont

A sign at the entrance to the DuPont chemical plant reads "Safety is a core value" in LaPorte, Texas, 26 miles (42 km) downtown Houston, November 17, 2014.Erwin Seba

(Reuters) - Activist investor Nelson Peltz's hedge fund said it was "open-minded" about keeping DuPont (DD.N) together, after agitating for months to break up the chemical conglomerate.

Trian Fund Management LP detailed the change in strategy on Wednesday, while urging DuPont shareholders to vote Nelson Peltz and three other nominees to the board.

"Trian does not see this election as a referendum on separating the businesses, but rather a referendum on DuPont's financial performance," the fund said in a letter to DuPont shareholders.

Trian, which owns a 2.68 percent stake in DuPont, has criticized DuPont for failing to meet its own earnings and revenue targets.

"While Trian advocates a separation as a means to improving performance, Trian nominees are open-minded to keeping the portfolio together if performance can be improved," the fund wrote in a White Paper published on Wednesday. (bit.ly/1KINOKj)

The fund had urged DuPont to separate its agriculture, nutrition and health, and industrial biosciences divisions from its volatile but strong cash flow-generating materials businesses.

DuPont, which is spinning off its performance chemicals business, had repeatedly rebuffed Trian's demand.

Trian changed its strategy because DuPont shareholders did not support a split of the company, and the fund was likely to bring the break-up back on the table if it were to gain the board seats, a source close to DuPont told Reuters.

DuPont on Wednesday said it would review Trian's latest presentation.

The hedge fund's proxy battle for board seats comes days after DuPont named two of its own nominees as directors.

DuPont said last week that it would have considered a Trian nominee if the fund had agreed to withdraw its slate of nominees, but Trian had insisted on a board seat for Peltz.

DuPont shares were down 1 percent at $74.81 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Editing by Don Sebastian

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