European consumer goods giant Unilever has announced it is launching a review of its operations in order to “accelerate” the value it can give to its shareholders.
“Unilever is conducting a comprehensive review of options available to accelerate delivery of value for the benefit of our shareholders,” the company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange this afternoon (22 February).
The announcement follows last week’s takeover approach from Kraft Heinz, which the US food giant withdrew two days after it became public. “The events of the last week have highlighted the need to capture more quickly the value we see in Unilever,” the Knorr maker said.
Kraft Heinz offered to pay GBP112bn (US$139.1bn) for Unilever. The ketchup and baked beans group offered GBP40 (US$50) per Unilever share, of which $30.23 would have been in cash, with the rest 0.222 new shares in the combined entity. The proposed offer represented a multiple of 14.5 times Unilever’s 2016 EBITDA.
However, Unilever rejected Kraft Heinz’s proposal and the company subsequentially pulled the plug on the proposal.
After the deal fell through, Jefferies analyst Martin Deboo suggested Kraft Heinz’s proposal could act as a catalyst for portfolio moves. He wrote in an investor note: “This analyst is among many who are unconvinced by the synergy arguments around combining foods and household personal care in the same operation. With Unilever looking ever keener to exit its spreads business, but with a spin-out difficult with such a weak top line, might there still be a deal to be done with Kraft Heinz for either spreads, spreads plus Hellmann’s, or even the whole Smörgåsbord?”
Unilever said it expects to complete the review by “early April” when it will communicate its findings.