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2014: The Year of the Activist Investor?

By: Nicole Urken | 01/22/14 - 10:00 PM EST

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -It's just a couple of weeks into 2014, and activism is already dominating headlines.

We got word earlier this week that activist investor Nelson Peltz is joining the Mondelez (MDLZ) board.  Trian's Peltz had been pushing for a merger of Mondelez with Pepsi's (PEP) snack business-- and while he will drop this push now having a position on the board, Peltz will still push for margin improvement and top-line growth.

Next up, Third Point's Dan Loeb has taken a large stake in Dow Chemical (DOW) with a push for the company to sell off its petrochemical business. Remember, we have seen strong value creation from Dupont (DD) and PPG Industries (PPG) as they have become more specialty chemical companies.

And then, Carl Icahn, who is also adding to his Apple (AAPL) stake, submitted a proposal to Ebay (EBAY) to spin off its PayPal business and nominated two of his employees as candidates for the board.

Or how about Elliott management coming after Riverbed Technology (RVBD) and Juniper Networks (JNPR).

This activism thread is key for a number of reasons: (1) There is a prop up to the market when individual companies underperform peers, as in the case of the above names and (2) This is a re-affirmation of the sum-of-the-parts of breakup value creation that remains an important theme in the market.  As I mentioned earlier this week, the Beam takeover was most significant because it was another feather in the at of value creation for the Fortune Brands split-up.

Ultimately, amidst what has been a spotty earnings season, these activist moves are more than just big names talking a big game... they add points to the bull case for the market this year. Oh, and by the way, I say watch out IBM (IBM).

--Written by Nicole Urken in New York.

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