PARIS – Nestlé’s chief executive officer Mark Schneider has no intention of changing the company’s approach to its investment in French beauty giant L’Oréal. “Our approach to this investment is currently not changing,” he told an investor event on Tuesday. “I just wanted to [make] that clear.”
His comments addressed market speculation that Nestlé’s attitude to its 23.3 percent stake in L’Oréal might change following the death of L’Oréal heir Lilane Bettencourt on Sept. 21.
The Bettencourt family and Nestlé are the beauty-maker’s largest individual stakeholders — with 33.05 percent and 23.3 percent stakes, respectively — and have a shareholders’ agreement that is unlocked six months after her demise.
The principle terms of that pact outline that neither party could increase its stake in L’Oréal during the lifetime of Bettencourt and in the six months after her death. That means starting in March, the parties no longer have to work in concert. (Each has been free to offer its shares to any third party since April 2014.)
Speculation about whether Nestlé would change its stance caused L’Oréal shares to surge on Friday, the day after Bettencourt’s passing. Nestlé has come under pressure from investors to divest its stake, considered by some as nonstrategic, as reported, but there have also been rumors the firm may wish to increase its share.
“This has been a very close, a very longstanding partnership,” said Schneider. “This has been a fabulous investment for the company. The contribution to our earnings is not that far away from the share of market cap that it represents. And hence, this investment is not diluting anything. It has been a good thing for the company.”
He continued, “There’s a lot of change in our main business, the other 90 percent of our market cap. We’re fully committed to making the best out of those changes, for us as a company and for you as shareholders. This is the single biggest way for everyone to create value. Let’s focus on that.”