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Colgate-Palmolive CEO brushes off talk of takeover by Kraft Heinz

The top executive at Colgate-Palmolive Co. dismissed questions June 1 about whether the company is considering a friendly takeover bid from packaged food producer The Kraft Heinz Co.

Chairman, President and CEO CIan Cook made the remarks at the start of a question-and-answer session at the Bernstein Annual Strategic Decisions Conference in New York.

Cook would not confirm or deny media reports that he is considering selling Colgate-Palmolive, saying the company has "a long-standing policy not to comment on rumors and speculation."

"If we ever did have something to share with the market, we would do so and we would only do it in an appropriate fashion," the CEO told an audience at the conference. "We believe that the best way to continue to drive growth and create shareholder value is to execute in the same way our plans for 2017 and beyond."

Cook's comments come after signs that a deal between Colgate-Palmolive and Kraft Heinz may be in the works. In the first few months of 2017, fund managers at Corvex Management LP and Starboard Value LP, two activist firms, purchased about $116 million in Colgate stock, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. And a May report in the New York Post suggested that Cook was considering selling the company for $100 a share.

Asked June 1 by moderator Ali Dibaj, an analyst at Bernstein, whether he would sell the company at that price, Cook said he would not "react to hypotheticals."

Shares of the maker of Colgate toothpaste and Irish Spring soap were trading at $76.45, or 0.12% higher on the day, around 3:30 p.m. ET on the New York Stock Exchange.

A deal with Colgate-Palmolive would give the maker of Jell-O gelatin and Heinz ketchup an M&A win after Anglo-Dutch competitor Unilever PLC rejected its $143 billion takeover bid in February.

In the wake of disappointing earnings and activist investors increasing their stakes in the companies, analysts have said many of the largest consumer products producers are ripe for consolidation. In April, revenue at Colgate-Palmolive during the first quarter of the company's 2017 fiscal year totaled $3.76 billion, shy of the consensus estimate compiled by S&P Capital IQ and unchanged from the same quarter one year earlier.

Kraft Heinz, itself the product of a 2015 merger backed by activist firms Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and 3G Capital Partners LP, saw revenue fall. Sales for the company’s first quarter were $6.36 billion, 2.7% lower than the same period in 2016 without the impact of foreign currencies and below the Capital IQ consensus estimate.