Unilever shareholders today voted in favor of the acquisition of Bestfoods at separate meetings in London and Rotterdam. Following the approval of the merger by the EU last Thursday, the closing remains subject to certain conditions set out in the merger agreement, including receipt of approval of Bestfoods shareholders who are meeting this afternoon in the US. The Unilever shareholders voted strongly in support of the offer of $73 per share which values Bestfoods' equity at $21.3 billion. Unilever also expects to assume Bestfoods' net debt which stood at $3.1 billion at June 30, 2000. Chairmen Niall FitzGerald and Antony Burgmans told the respective Unilever PLC and NV shareholders meetings in the company's London and Rotterdam head office that the acquisition represented an outstanding strategic fit, strengthening Unilever's Foods business and enhancing its Path to Growth strategy. "The acquisition of Bestfoods will enable us to create the world's best foods company, delivering strong top-line growth and enhancing operating margins by realising the potential for significant synergy," the Chairmen said. "Our combined knowledge of consumers, our focussed expertise behind leading brands, the strength of our technology base and our track record of increasing operational efficiency will all contribute to sustainable value creation." They concluded: "We are excited by the Bestfoods acquisition. It is fully aligned with our Path to Growth strategy, with its focus on strong global brands complemented by a stable of relevant local brands. As we said earlier the combination with Bestfoods makes a good plan better. "The acquisition of Bestfoods will also enable us to accelerate the rationalisation of our existing brand portfolio by exiting a number of smaller brands, again fully consistent with our Path to Growth strategy." For full text of Chairman's address access