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UPDATE 1-Danone board working on plan to adapt to new challenges

(Adds detail, analyst updates shares)

PARIS, Oct 16 (Reuters) - The board of French food group Danone is looking at ways it can adapt to the new environment and new challenges in the sector, a company spokesman said.

The statement came after business magazine Challenges said on its website that Danone finance chief Cecile Cabanis could leave as part of an overhaul planned by Chairman and Chief Executive Emmanuel Faber.

“Emmanuel Faber, Cecile Cabanis, the executive committee and the board have been working since July ... on a plan to adapt the company to a new environment and new challenges in the sector,” the Danone spokesman said, adding that the company never comments on speculation.

Danone’s business focused on dairy, plant-based products, waters and specialised nutrition could be replaced by regional subsidiaries, Challenges said.

“This in-depth transformation, along the lines of that of multinationals like Nestle, could have led to split the chairman and CEO roles between the group’s number 1 and number 2. But Emmanuel Faber did not want to yield some of his power. So Cecile Cabanis is saying goodbye,” it said.

Cabanis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At 1122 GMT, Danone shares were down 2.5% at 53.78 euros, underperforming the CAC-40 index which gained 1.4%.

Shrinking sales of bottled water during COVID-19 lockdowns drove down Danone’s second quarter sales by 5.7% like-for-like, and the company warned in July that costs linked to the pandemic would weigh on its profit margin for the rest of the year.

Danone publishes third-quarter sales on Oct. 20.

“Confidence has collapsed, capping a 20Y history of underperformance. 2019’s front-footedness has evaporated, with Q3 likely to be a second negative quarter on the top line,” Jefferies analysts wrote.

“The irony is that a company with health and wellness at its core is unable to grow, just when those qualities should be at a premium,” they added.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon Editing by David Goodman and Louise Heavens

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