Nelson Peltz’s Trian Partners has taken an $870 million stake in media giant Comcast, according to a delayed Schedule 13F quarterly portfolio filing.
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the stake but did not say what kind of changes Trian might be seeking. Talks with the company reportedly began recently.
The activist’s stake is now 0.4% or 20 million shares, up from below 8 million at the end of June. That is small, even by the standards of early stakes in past campaigns at similarly gigantic companies like Procter & Gamble and General Electric, which Trian remains invested in.
Activist Insight Vulnerability gave Comcast a moderate likelihood of being targeted by activist investors, given that its stock has moderately outperformed peers and profit margins are slightly higher.
However, the company received some opposition to director re-election proposals, with three board members receiving around 15% of votes withheld or abstaining this year.
Ed Breen, who broke up DuPont following Trian’s campaign at the industrials company, was one of the targeted directors. According to Proxy Insight, Dimensional Fund Advisors was the largest shareholder to withhold its support, with around a 1% stake. Compensation issues were widely cited in voting rationales and the “say on pay” resolution received 23% opposition.
Governance issues are unlikely to be the sole reason for Trian’s interest, however, and asset sales may be on the table, as they are for Comcast rival AT&T, which was under pressure from Elliott Management.
Comcast bundles cable networks, broadcast television, and streaming – like AT&T – while also competing with Disney through a film studio and theme parks. The company also owns the Philadelphia Flyers ice hockey team and Wells Fargo Center in the company’s home town of Philadelphia.
Despite many of its operations being challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, Comcast’s stock is down just 1.5% for the year and was slightly up until volatility returned to markets in recent weeks.
CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts controls around one-third of the votes through Class B stock.