Adidas AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Hainer said the sporting-goods maker’s hiring of advisory firm Perella Weinberg Partners is aimed at establishing investors’ intentions amid interest from activist funds.
The appointment, announced by Hainer at last week’s annual general meeting, will help defend against possible moves by activist investors. Southeastern Asset Management owns about 3 percent of Adidas and has pushed for change at European companies from German construction company Hochtief AG to Royal Philips NV in the Netherlands. Other hedge funds have also reportedly considered taking stakes.
“We don’t want to defend ourselves,” Hainer said at a meeting with reporters in Munich Monday. “We just want to know that when an investor takes a stake, that he has the right intentions.” Since money for potential investments is plentiful and banks constantly evaluate companies’ valuations, “we want to be savvy about what that can mean,” he said.
Perella spokeswoman Kara Findlay declined to comment on the firm’s work.
It’s a tenuous time for Adidas, the German sneaker and sports-gear company that’s been losing ground to Nike Inc. for years. A search is underway for the successor to Hainer, who turns 61 in July and has served for 14 years. A new strategic plan is supposed to get the company from about 16 billion euros ($18 billion) in sales this year to 22 billion by 2020, yet there’s no guarantee the next CEO will embrace it. Adidas shares declined 38 percent in 2014 and are down 6.2 percent in the past 12 months after rallying this year.
The stock fall let the company buy back its own shares more cheaply. Hainer said Monday that Adidas is in the “second tranche” of repurchases, after announcing in October that it would buy back as much as 1.5 billion euros of its stock over three years.
“Then we’ll have to see how the stock looks and what we’d do further,” he said.
Adidas last week reported first-quarter revenue and profit that topped estimates on strong sales of running shoes and its Originals fashion brand. The company in March unveiled a plan to jog growth by paring its product line, shipping new sneakers faster and focusing spending on six taste-making cities from Los Angeles to Shanghai where sales are concentrated.
Hainer is making a major effort to better compete with Nike and upstart Under Armour Inc. in the U.S. The marketing push is coming at the expense of U.S. earnings for now. North American sales were up nearly 28 percent last quarter, though Adidas posted a 9 million-euro operating loss there.
Hainer on Monday reiterated that Adidas can return to profitable growth in North America this year.