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Premier Foods CEO Gavin Darby to step down

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(Reuters) – Premier Foods <PFD.L> Chief Executive Gavin Darby is stepping down, ending a tenure rocked by a shareholder revolt earlier this year to oust him following a botched takeover attempt of the British packaged food maker.

The company also said on Tuesday it was working to identify strategic opportunities to speed up its turnaround and was in talks with third parties to sell its Ambrosia rice pudding and custards brand.

Darby, who has led the Oxo stock cube-maker since 2013, won more time in July to revive the ailing food maker, whose shares have fallen by a third since U.S. food maker McCormick <MKC.N> abandoned a takeover approach in 2016.

Premier Foods’ top shareholder, Japan’s Nissin Foods Holdings <2897.T> had then backed Darby, even as second-largest investor and vocal critic Oasis Management urged shareholders to vote against him at a general meeting.

Darby will step down from the top job and as a director of the company with effect from Jan. 31, and the board will start its search for a successor.

The company, which traces its history back to the early 19th century, has been looking to cut costs as part of a two-year plan launched in 2017 by laying off people and streamlining its warehousing and distribution network.

The company said on Tuesday it would step up investments in marketing and high-return capital projects, adding that it was pursuing options to fund these plans while also delivering “a meaningful reduction” in net debt.

The maker of Mr Kipling cakes and Bisto gravy maintained its profit expectations for the full year. Analysts on average had estimated trading profit of 126 million pounds, according to company provided consensus.

Trading profit rose 6.3 percent to 51 million pounds in the 26 weeks ended Sept. 29, from 48 million pounds a year earlier. Revenue rose 1.3 percent to 358 million pounds.

(Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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