DuPont Wins Battle With Activist Shareholder

DuPont has emerged bloody but apparently unbowed from its battle with activist shareholder Nelson Peltz and his $11 billion hedge fund Trian Fund Management, which owns an estimated 2.7% of the US chemical group's capital.

Preliminary results from the DuPont annual general meeting on May 13 indicated that shareholders approved all 12 of management's candidates, while Peltz and his nominated candidates fell short.

The Trian principal had sought four seats on the DuPont board, including one for himself. He had proposed to split the company, while cutting costs, increasing efficiency and improving corporate governance. This had raised fears within DuPont that the moves would destroy its innovation platform.

Reports said DuPont management had unsuccessfully tried to broker a compromise earlier this year, by nominating one of Trian's board candidates although not Peltz himself.

In the end, commentators said the victory, though narrow, was nevertheless a huge one for DuPont's board and CEO Ellen Kullman.

According to some reports, retail shareholders - who hold about a third of the company's capital - rather than institutional investors voted overwhelmingly for the DuPont slate. Analysts said, however, that Kullman's open dialog with big shareholders, including Vanguard, State Street and BlackRock, was instrumental in the win.

Ahead of the meeting, two proxy advisory firms, including Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis & Co, had backed one or more of the Trian-proposed candidates.

DuPont said it spent $15 million on its shareholder campaign, with Trian's cost for the battle pegged at slightly more than half that.

In a statement, Trian said, "We are proud of the role we played as a positive change agent at DuPont. We will continue to monitor DuPont's performance.

"Our efforts have created appropriate pressure to prove this strategy can actually deliver high quality and consistent earnings growth," the fund added.

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