Activist Fund Praises Juniper CEO, Raises Proxy Fight Possibility
There may be a proxy fight looming over control of networking equipment vendor Juniper Networks. Or there may not be. Elliott Management, the activist hedge fund that now owns more than six percent of the company’s shares, made certain that everyone involved — Juniper’s management, its board and other shareholders — knows that possibility is on the table.
In a statement issued today — notable for how highly it praised new CEO Shaygan Kheradpir for portraying himself as a “change agent” on a recent earnings call — Elliott portfolio manager Jesse Cohn let slip that the firm has “recruited a team of leading executives who are excited about Juniper,” a group that would presumably be nominated as an alternate slate of directors.
Elliott, which is controlled by billionaire activist investor Paul Singer, has called for Juniper to cut its operating costs by $200 million and initiate a share buyback worth $3.5 billion. A second activist fund, Jana Partners, said last month that it has been buying Juniper shares and that it is seeking a $300 million cut in costs and an unspecified return of capital to shareholders.
Kheradpir has said that he’s open to all of the changes that Elliott has suggested and that the company has a new operational plan it intends to announce within a few weeks.
Here’s Cohn’s statement in full:
“Elliott is extremely gratified by the absolutely overwhelming support we have received from fellow Juniper shareholders, sell-side analysts and the broader investing community for the Shareholder Value Plan we have urged Juniper to adopt,” said Jesse Cohn, Portfolio Manager at Elliott. “When we set out to suggest a plan for Juniper, we talked with fellow shareholders and leading analysts to develop a reasonable set of steps that could generate tremendous value. We also recruited a team of leading executives who are excited about Juniper and who have the operational skills and deep industry experience to help ensure that the Shareholder Value Plan becomes a reality. Elliott is entirely committed to seeing the plan through, and our commitment is such that we remain open to all paths to ensure its implementation. We have been pleased with our dialogue with the Company, and we were encouraged by Shaygan’s decision to position himself as a change agent on Juniper’s January 23rd earnings call. It is our strong preference to work collaboratively with Juniper to achieve the most important goal of ensuring implementation of a plan that is fully consistent with the specific value-maximizing steps outlined in the Shareholder Value Plan.”