Activist fund Elliott keeps up pressure on drinks group Pernod By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo is seen on a bottle of the Ricard aniseed-flavoured beverage displayed during French drinks maker Pernod Ricard news conference to announce the company annual results in Paris


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo is seen on a bottle of the Ricard aniseed-flavoured beverage displayed during French drinks maker Pernod Ricard news conference to announce the company annual results in Paris

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PARIS (Reuters) – Activist hedge fund Elliott kept up the pressure on French drinks group Pernod Ricard (PA:), stating that while Pernod’s results this week were good, Elliott still wanted more in terms of corporate governance and steps to boost growth.

Elliott, which has built a stake of just over 2.5 percent in Pernod, has called on the family-backed group to raise profit margins to bring them more into line with British rival Diageo (LON:), and wants better corporate governance at Pernod.

Elliott issued a statement on Friday in response to Pernod’s results this week, in which the group raised its profit growth outlook for 2018-2019.

“Pernod’s half-year earnings announcement confirmed the strong growth potential and solid financial performance of the company. It also reflected a first small step in starting to address the company’s shortcomings in operational efficiency,” Elliott said in a statement.

Elliott nevertheless added it felt Pernod’s strategy plans could be “more ambitious.”

Elliott said Pernod’s targeted savings of 100 million euros and a margin step-up of 50-60 basis points per year over the period FY19-21 were “modest goals” for a company with an EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) of around 2.5 billion euros that operates at close to a 5 percentage points EBIT margin discount to its closest peer.

“Elliott trusts that Pernod’s management will continue to engage in a mutually constructive dialogue to deliver much needed additional improvements while capturing the strong growth of the Company’s underlying markets,” added Elliott.

Last month Pernod Ricard took a step toward improving its governance, naming Patricia Barbizet to the newly created role of lead independent director.

Company chief executive Alexandre Ricard, the 46-year-old grandson of the firm’s founder, made sales growth his top priority when he took over in 2015 and has defended his long-term value strategy.

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