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Unilever ‘to sell’ spreads brands after review

Matt Atherton

By Matt Atherton+

20-Mar-2017
Last updated on 21-Mar-2017 at 10:46 GMT2017-03-21T10:46:09Z

Unilever 'may sell' its spreads brands Flora, Stork and Bertolli after the failed Kraft Heinz bid
Unilever 'may sell' its spreads brands Flora, Stork and Bertolli after the failed Kraft Heinz bid

Unilever may sell its Flora, Stork and Bertolli brands as part of its comprehensive review, according to reports, prompting the GMB union to urge the manufacturer to avoid a cost-cutting “slash and burn” policy.

The Marmite manufacturer revealed a comprehensive review of its operations following the failed £115bn takeover bid from Kraft Heinz. The review led to reports that Unilever could off-load some of its underperforming businesses – including Flora, Stork and Bertolli – when it publishes its findings next month.

No-one from Unilever was available to comment on the reports.

The union has written a letter to Unilever, urging it not to embark on drastic cost-cutting measures to boost profits, which could result in job cuts, reducing working conditions and pension reforms.

‘Botched takeover by Kraft Heinz’

GMB national officer Eamon O’Hearn said: “Unilever has a proud history of treating workers with respect. We don’t want that to change just because of a botched takeover by Kraft Heinz.

“GMB members are worried the company will adopt a slash and burn approach in an ill-judged and short-sighted attempt to boost profits just to appease the market. We have written to investors urging them to make sure these fears are not realised.”

The union letter was sent to 10 institutional investors. It said the union was concerned that Unilever would rely on counter-productive cost-cutting schemes to increase the manfuacturer’s value.

‘Spinning off its food division’

The letter read: “Equally, ‘spinning off’ its food division or some sub-set would be likely to have a similar impact as experience shows us that incoming management teams frequently achieve efficiencies through cuts, not dynamic new management techniques.

“GMB believes that Unilever’s long-term success and prestige of its brand has been inextricably linked to its status as a model employer and business, and GMB would not wish to see that undermined.”

Last month, Unilever turned down a £115bn takeover bid from Kraft Heinz, after the US firm wanted to create a “leading consumer goods company”. Unilever claimed it saw “no merit, either financial or strategic” in accepting the deal.

 

Unilever reported brand offloading
  • Could sell Flora, Stock and Bertolli brands
  • Part of manufacturer’s comprehensive review
  • GMB union urges Unilever not to go down “slash and burn” route