This article was first published on Activist Insight Online on November 29, 2021. For more information about the product, click here.
Activist investor Ancora Advisors has urged packaging specialist Berry Global to weigh its options, including a sale, and consider boosting share buybacks, threatening a proxy contest if the company fails to respond. Three years ago, Activist Insight Vulnerability flagged Berry as a potential target for activists seeking a takeout.
Ancora has sent a letter to Berry, arguing for a strategic review and other changes the activist claims will address the company’s “punishing valuation gap.” Ancora told Berry directors that the company could fetch $100 per share in a sale, compared to the $66 the stock closed at on Friday.
Berry’s shares have lagged the broader market in recent years, rising just 36% over the past five years, compared to 110% for the S&P 500 Index. Ancora said the company has also fallen behind partial competitors including Aptargroup, Silgan, and Packaging Corporation of America, in terms of share price performance since Tom Salmon became CEO in February 2017.
Ancora also said Berry should consider expanding its stock buyback program to $1 billion and said part of the funds could come from a sale-leaseback transaction, which the investor believes could provide the company with nearly 20% of its market capitalization in cash.
The activist, which holds about 1% of Berry’s share capital, warned that it was ready to call a special meeting to replace directors if needed.
The company last week said it would buy back $50 million of its shares in an accelerated share repurchase transaction that will leave its ongoing program with $350 million on it. In its letter, Ancora labeled the move “an insult to investors.”
In October 2018, Activist Insight Vulnerability reporters argued Berry could be targeted by an activist due to its liberal M&A policy and increasing leverage. The report suggested an activist could push the company to begin rolling up its operations or a sale of its assets, which Canyon Capital Advisors did 16 months later.
Canyon argued in a February 2020 letter that the packaging company should devise a plan to shed non-core assets as a means to deleverage, which the activist identified as the main reason behind Berry’s poor shareholder returns and stock performance.
Shares in Berry were up 3% in pre-market trading Monday.