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Just Eat CEO exits with threat from Uber, Deliveroo growing


JUST Eat Plc's CEO is leaving after a surge in competition from rival apps and pressure from an activist shareholder to speed up decision-making and consider the sale of assets.

Peter Plumb is stepping down with immediate effect, with Peter Duffy, chief customer officer, appointed as interim CEO. In December, shareholder Cat Rock Capital Management LP urged the company to commit to a three-year plan aligned to management's renumeration, and to consider alternatives for what it sees as non-core assets, such as the Brazilian startup iFood.

Shares in Just Eat fell as much as 5.8 per cent in early trading on Monday before turning positive. The stock was down 1.4 per cent at 3.12pm in London.

"I think the market's been a little frustrated with the quality of communication that the company has had with the market and with investors around some of the strategy," said London-based Jeremy Thomas, head of global equities at Sarasin & Partners LLP, and a shareholder in Just Eat. "Particularly around the costs of delivery."

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Mr Plumb was appointed to the top role in mid-2017 with a target of getting the company in the FTSE 100, achieved in December that year.

However, over 2018 the shares fell 26.2 per cent, after facing increasing competition from new rivals including Deliveroo and Uber Eats, causing the company to fall out of the FTSE 100 last month.

The food delivery operation of Uber Technologies Inc is looking to expand how users can pay for meals and generate more business via its website rather than its app - a key part of Just Eat's business.

"The business is in good health," saidMr Plumb. "Now is the right time for me to step aside and make way for a new leader."

Just Eat also posted a positive trading update on Monday, with full-year 2018 revenue of £780 million (S$1.37 billion). The company previously saw revenue of between £740 million and £770 million. Guidance for 2019 is revenue of £1 billion to £1.1 billion, and underlying earnings before tax in the range of £185 million to £205 million.

"The departure will raise questions about why it has taken place," said Ian Whittaker, analyst at Liberum, in a research note. "One possible explanation is that there may have been a dispute over the direction of the Latin American strategy."

Just Eat said that it expects its Latin American operations, dominated by its stake in iFood, to report an Ebitda loss in the range of £80 million to £100 million.

The company added that it expects to grow marketplace Ebitda margins year on year and for its Canadian business, SkipTheDishes, to report its first full-year profit in 2019.

Cat Rock, a small hedge fund with around US$850 million under management, has a stake of about US$50 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The investor recommended Just Eat's board consider selling its minority stake in iFood, arguing it could generate up to £650 million that could potentially return to investors.

"Cat Rock welcomes the board's recognition that the company's slow pace of planning and lack of management accountability needed to change," the Connecticut-based investor, founded by Alex Captain, said in an emailed statement. "It is critical that the board now find a high-quality successor and implement a remuneration plan that creates clear alignment with shareholders' interests."

Just Eat will provide further detail on its plans at its full-year 2018 results on March 6. BLOOMBERG

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