WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The board of directors of Bunge Ltd. on Oct. 31 appointed three new directors who will play a key role in guiding the company through a comprehensive, strategic review focused on enhancing long-term shareholder value.
The three new board members are: Paul J. Fribourg, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Grain Co.; Gregory A. Heckman, founding partner of Flatwater Partners (and former c.e.o. and president of The Gavilon Group, L.L.C.); and Henry W. Winship, president of Pacific Point Capital, L.L.C.
Bunge, along with activist investors D.E. Shaw Group and Continental Grain, also agreed to appoint a fourth, mutually agreeable independent director, by the end of the year, which would bring the total number of directors on Bunge’s board to 15. D.E. Shaw and Continental Grain both increased their stake in Bunge earlier this year in hopes of securing a more prominent role in the company’s future.
“We welcome these new directors to the Bunge board and will benefit from their valuable expertise and perspective as we continue to transform Bunge, execute on our strategic priorities and seek ways to enhance shareholder value,” said Soren Schroder, c.e.o. of Bunge. “We are committed to engaging with all shareholders as we continue to pursue value-enhancing opportunities for Bunge.”
The board appointments go hand-in-hand with the formation of a strategic review committee, which will be chaired by Mr. Fribourg. Mr. Fribourg has more than 40 years of experience owning and operating businesses in the food, agribusiness and commodities industries. He has been chairman and c.e.o. of Continental Grain since 1997.
The committee also will include newly appointed directors Mr. Heckman and Mr. Winship as well as three current directors: Andrew A. Ferrier, Kathleen W. Hyle and Mark N. Zenuk.
The committee will be tasked with conducting a comprehensive, strategic review focused on enhancing long-term shareholder value. The committee will make recommendations to the c.e.o. and the board.
“While the industry has faced some challenges over the last few years, we believe that Bunge, with its unparalleled asset base, has all the elements to further strengthen its position as a world class leader in the global agribusiness industry,” Mr. Fribourg said. “I look forward to working with Bunge’s board and management team.”
In addition to chairing the strategic review committee, Mr. Fribourg will join Bunge’s finance and risk policy committee. Mr. Heckman will join the corporate governance and nominations committee, and Mr. Winship will join the compensation committee.
Bunge, which has a market valuation of about $11 billion, has been a takeover target during the past year. In early 2017, Glencore, a Swiss miner and commodity trader, approached Bunge with an offer but was rebuffed. More recently, Archer Daniels Midland Co. reportedly held discussions with Bunge about a possible deal that would combine two of the world’s largest grain traders.
With the global grain industry stagnating with large grain inventories and slumping prices, Bunge had suffered a string of poor quarterly earnings reports before posting strong results in the third quarter ended Sept. 30. Net income in the third quarter totaled $357 million, equal to $2.44 per share on the common stock, up from $84 million, or 59c per share, in the same period a year ago.
Mr. Schroder attributed the third-quarter improvement to “prudent actions we took in the second quarter to secure crush margins at multi-year highs, positioning the company for a strong second-half performance.”
News of the strategic review sent shares of Bunge up more than 5% to a high of $69.30 on Oct. 30 before closing at $68.02. In pre-market trading on Oct. 31 the company’s stock was up 1.5% to $69.01.