Nestle announced plans to buy back as much as 20 billion Swiss francs ($20.79 billion) worth of shares over three years, days after U.S. activist shareholder Third Point LLC began a campaign to boost performance at the company.
The New York-based hedge fund, controlled by billionaire investor Daniel Loeb, disclosed a $3.5 billion stake in the company on Sunday when it started pushing for Nestle to more aggressively boost performance and buy back shares.
Nestle said its announcement on Tuesday was the result of a review of its priorities that began in early 2017. It did not mention Third Point in its statement.
Third Point declined comment on Nestle’s announcement.
Nestle said its buyback program would start on July 4, and would be adjusted as necessary to reflect any potential big acquisitions.
“In the context of low interest rates and strong cash flow generation, share buybacks offer a viable option to create shareholder value,” the company said.
The volume of monthly share buybacks will depend on market conditions but will probably occur mostly in 2019 and 2020, so it can consider acquisitions before then, Nestle said.
The company now expects to increase its level of debt to about 1.5 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by 2020. That would be up from about
0.8 times last year.