Unilever has reportedly drawn up a shortlist of four suitors interested in buying some or all of its remaining spreads assets.

Sky News today (3 November) claimed the Flora and Becel owner had asked private-equity firms Apollo Global, CVC Capital Partners, KKR and Platinum Equity to table new offers for the assets.

The broadcaster said Platinum Equity was thought to be interested in only part of Unilever’s spreads business.

Unilever announced in April it would exit the spreads category, a sector under pressure and in which the company has been struggling to grow in recent years.

A number of private-equity firms have been reported to have been eyeing making bids for the business, although no buy-out house, nor Unilever, have commented directly on the race.

In September, Amanda Sourry, the president of Unilever’s food business, told investors the company was targeting either the sale or de-merger of its spreads business by early next year.

“This is a huge and complex undertaking for Unilever. It’s certainly the biggest divestiture we’ve ever been through. We’ve got a business that’s present in over 60 countries. We’re in the process of developing the carved-out financials, audited for the business, to be in a position to start the sale process this fall,” she said.

“I think we’ve been very clear that we intend to drive the maximum value we can through the sale process. If, in fact, we’re not able to do that, we’re also very clear we’ll look at options such as a de-merger or selling parts of the business, rather than the entire business. But we’re absolutely on-track in this process with where we said we would be when we made the announcement in April.”

In September, Unilever announced the sale of its spreads business in southern Africa to South Africa-based investment firm Remgro, which among its assets includes a majority stake in local food group RCL Foods, already a notable player in the category locally.