FedEx Boosts Dividend, Shakes Up Board in Deal With Activist

(Bloomberg) — FedEx Corp. boosted its dividend and announced board changes in coordination with activist investor D.E. Shaw & Co., shaking up the courier just two weeks into the tenure of new Chief Executive Officer Raj Subramaniam.

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The quarterly dividend will jump 53% to $1.15 per share, the Memphis, Tennessee-based company said Tuesday in a statement. That’s well above the 87-cent prediction by Bloomberg analytics. FedEx also said it would cut capital spending and rework its executive compensation program.

The higher-than-expected dividend payment increase and reduction in capital spending will be accompanied by the addition of Amy Lane and Jim Vena as independent directors effective immediately, with a third new director to be named at a later date and agreed upon by FedEx and D.E. Shaw.

“We appreciate the collaboration with the D. E. Shaw group, a long-time FedEx stockholder, with whom we have maintained an ongoing and constructive dialogue in reaching this agreement,” Subramaniam said in the statement.

FedEx shares climbed more than 12% — its biggest intraday jump in almost two years — to $226.22 as of 9:55 a.m. in New York. The stock is down about 12% so far this year.

“Investors have been speculating about an activist at FDX for years, without one materializing,” Jack Atkins, an analyst with Stephens with an “overweight” rating on the stock, wrote in a note to clients. “Now, with a new leadership team and fresh voices on the board (including a proven operator like Mr. Vena), we are hopeful that a new day is dawning.”

Under New Management

The moves indicate that Subramaniam, who took over as CEO from founder Fred Smith on June 1, may be more open to addressing investor concerns as FedEx struggles to boost profit margins and has trailed the performance of its larger rival, United Parcel Service Inc.

Smith, who started FedEx operations in 1973 with a handful of private jets converted to freighters, remained as chairman of the board. He is FedEx’s single largest stockholder with 7.5% of outstanding shares.

As part of the agreement with D.E. Shaw, FedEx also tied executive pay more to its total shareholder return and made a flurry of changes to board committees.

D.E. Shaw owned about 1 million shares as of March 31, making it FedEx’s 35th largest holder, according to Bloomberg data. With $60 billion in assets under management, D.E. Shaw has pushed for changes at several companies in the past, including Exxon Mobil Corp., Bunge Ltd., and Lowe’s Cos., among others.

Vena is a former railroad executive who worked at Canadian National Railway Co. and recently helped Union Pacific Corp. improve efficiency. Lane is a former Merrill Lynch & Co. banker who also sits on the boards of NexEra Energy Inc. and TJX Companies Inc.

(Adds CEO comment in fourth paragraph.)

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