Unilever has emerged as the winner in the fight to acquire the India-based Horlicks bedtime malt drink brand and other consumer nutrition products from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), confirming a EUR3.3bn (US$3.74bn) deal.

Unilever announced this morning it has bought GSK’s health food drinks portfolio in India, Bangladesh and 20 other predominantly Asian markets. 

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The transaction consists of three elements: an all-equity merger of Hindustan Unilever, the FMCG giant’s listed entity in India, with GSK Consumer Healthcare India; the acquisition of an 82% stake in GSK Bangladesh and the acquisition of certain other commercial operations and assets outside India.

Unilever will pay EUR3.3bn using a combination of cash and shares in HUL.
In 2018, the GSK health food drinks portfolio delivered a total turnover of around EUR550m, primarily through the Horlicks and Boost brands. Almost 90% of the turnover is in India.

This portfolio has a long history in India with Horlicks having originally been introduced in the 1930s. Horlicks products have been an everyday staple in south Asian households for generations.

Unilever said the transaction aligns with its stated strategy of increasing its presence in health food categories and in high-growth emerging markets.

It suggested it is well positioned to further develop the market given the extent of its reach and capabilities.

Nitin Paranjpe, president of Unilever’s food and refreshment arm, said: “The iconic Horlicks brand has a deep heritage, credibility and resonance around the world. The acquisition is transformative for our foods and refreshment business, allowing us to enter the health foods drinks category, further strengthening our position in health and wellness. 

“It is rare to be able to acquire brands with such leading market positions and fantastic consumer equity in one of the world’s most exciting and fast-growing markets. Improving the health and well-being of one billion people by 2020 is a key pillar in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. 

“Horlicks and Boost will add to our stable of purpose-driven brands that help consumers to get more out of their lives.”

Sanjiv Mehta, chairman and CEO of Hindustan Unilever, added: “I am confident that this merger will create significant shareholder value through both revenue and cost synergies.”

GSK announced back in March it was reviewing its consumer healthcare nutrition products, including the Horlicks brand. Last week, informed sources suggested the battle to acquire the assets had become a straight fight between Unilever and Switzerland-based food giant Nestle.

just-food analysis: Why did Unilever buy GSK’s Horlicks-led assets?