Avon shares gain ground on reports of Cerberus interest

AP News
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Posted: Dec 04, 2015 12:27 PM
Avon shares gain ground on reports of Cerberus interest

NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Avon Products Inc. jumped Friday as multiple media reports said the beauty products company is considering selling its North American business to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.

The reports come as another private equity firm, Barington Capital Group, criticized the struggling company and called for management changes and cost cuts. Barington says it has about a 3 percent stake in the New York-based company.

Avon's stock rose 31 cents, or 7.8 percent, to $4.30 in afternoon trading. On Thursday, it gained 26 cents, or 7 percent, to close at $3.99.

Several media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, said Avon is close to cutting a deal with Cerberus that could involve a minority investment, board seats and the sale of part of its business.

Barington Capital sent a critical letter to Avon Chairman Douglas R. Conant, on the heels of those reports. In it, the private equity group called for cutting costs by up to $700 million in up to 24 months by "streamlining" the company. It also called for "eliminating" its current management structure as it criticized CEO Sheri McCoy.

The letter also calls for adding independent directors and Barington intends to nominate a group of candidates ahead of the company's 2016 annual meeting.

"We are convinced that the addition of new independent directors to the board is a necessary first step toward developing and executing a strategy that will unlock Avon's value potential for all shareholders," Barington said in the letter.

Avon has been reporting wider losses over the last several years as revenue continues to decline.

The company did not comment on the report of a potential Cerberus deal, but said it is focused on taking "strategic actions" to drive growth and enhance value for shareholders.

"We are aware that Barington has made a public announcement expressing its views on our business," Avon said, in a statement. "Avon welcomes open communication with and feedback from our shareholders."