Activist investor takes stake in International Flavors & Fragrances25 Feb 2021
Earlier this month, the activist investor Sachem Head Capital Management took a $1 billion stake in the ingredients and chemical company International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), Reuters reported.
According to sources, this move was spurred by Scott Ferguson, the hedge fund head of the investment firm, who intends to improve IFF’s financial performance and help integrate the recent merger of IFF and DuPont’s nutrition unit. In early February, IFF and DuPont completed a $26.2 billion merger that blended the companies into one of the biggest players in the ingredient space with an estimated pro forma revenue of $11 billion for 2020.
The merger with DuPont was not IFF’s first foray into M&A as IFF has a history of looking to M&A to fuel growth. In 2017, IFF acquired PowderPure, in 2016 it was David Michael & Co. and in 2015 the company assumed ownership of Ottens Flavors.
However, M&A is not always a straightforward process, and IFF has a history of rocky integrations. Its last purchase was in 2018 when it acquired Israel-based Frutarom for $7.1 billion. A year later, IFF found that operators in Russia and Ukraine allegedly paid bribes to customs officials and distributors. The case is currently in court as a federal class action suit.
Although this most recent merger with DuPont is also unlikely to exhibit the same issues that were uncovered with Frutarom as it was a heavily scrutinized and very public merger, having an investor help pave the path for a smooth transition has the ability to ensure that this megamerger is a profitable move rather than another liability for the flavor company.
Even if everything with the merger goes smoothly, there is still reportedly plenty of room for IFF to improve its books. Reuters reported that the research firm Gordon Haskett has maintained that IFF would be a good choice for an activist investor as the company’s shares lagged behind its competitors.
Other big names in the ingredients space include Kerry, which has made several major M&A deals in recent years and has increased its focus on plant-based ingredient alternatives. Ingredion is another major competitor in the space that has also looked toward technology for growth. Givaudan and McCormick round out the pack of those companies that are vying to control the market among ingredients manufacturers.
Although IFF has been the caboose within the ingredients industry, its sales have grown from $3 billion in 2014 to $11 billion today, per its most recent quarterly earnings report released in February. Nevertheless, Sachem Head may see this as only the beginning of the company’s growth and by stepping in it hopes to boost the bottom line as well as IFF’s EBIDTA.
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