LEAMINGTON SPA: One of Europe's most fearsome activist investors has acquired a 5.2% stake in Wolseley.

Cevian Capital has acquired nearly 14.7m shares in the company. Cevian has a reputation for activism after holding stakes in Munich Re, the German reinsurance group, Volvo, the Swedish truck-maker, and insurer Old Mutual.

The group aims to work with management teams to develop strategies for growth. Marcus Alexanderson, a partner at Cevian, backed Wolseley's strategy, praising the group's "strong set of businesses in an attractive industry".

He said: "We believe that there is significant value potential in Wolseley, and we support the initiatives pursued by the company to improve the performance of the group."

A Wolseley spokesperson said the company noted the statement from Cevian and "looks forward to engaging with them as we would with any other shareholder".

The plumbing and heating supplies group announced last month that its trading profit for the year to July 31 would beat analyst forecasts of £374m. Under new chief executive Ian Meakins, Wolseley has identified 19 divisions that are underperforming and likely to be sold within two years, including Build Center in the UK. There has been speculation that the company could consider a sale of its UK arm.