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Bill Gates Is Ecolab’s Largest Shareholder. He Just Scooped Up More Shares.

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has been buying shares of Ecolab.

Leon Neal/WPA Pool /Getty Images


Ecolab
’s
largest shareholder,


Microsoft

co-founder
Bill Gates,
bought more shares of the provider of water-treatment, hygiene, and infection-prevention goods and services.

Ecolab (ticker: ECL) stock has slumped about 27% so far this year. In late July, the company’s second-quarter report beat expectations, but Ecolab said the period was hurt by “cost inflation, investments in the business, and unfavorable currency translation in a rapidly changing global operating environment.”

Cascade Investment, an investment vehicle of Gates’, paid $57.2 million from Aug. 11 through Aug. 15 for a total of 329,008 Ecolab shares, an average price of $173.92 each, according to forms that it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Cascade now owns 31 million Ecolab shares, an 11% stake, and remains the company’s top investor, according to S&P Capital IQ.

These are Cascade’s first purchases of Ecolab stock since March 2018, when it bought about $230 million of shares.

Cascade declined to comment. Michael Larson, chief investment officer for Gates, and the business manager of Cascade, is an Ecolab director.

Credit Suisse analyst John Roberts trimmed the target price on Ecolab stock to $185 from $195 after the company’s second-quarter report, but he kept an Outperform rating. In his most-bullish outlook for Ecolab, Roberts wrote that there could be a “meaningful pickup” in demand for the company’s institutional division “as business travel rebounds.”

Inside Scoop is a regular Barron’s feature covering stock transactions by corporate executives and board members—so-called insiders—as well as large shareholders, politicians, and other prominent figures. Due to their insider status, these investors are required to disclose stock trades with the Securities and Exchange Commission or other regulatory groups.

Write to Ed Lin at edward.lin@barrons.com and follow @BarronsEdLin.

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