The market has roundly welcomed news that Nestlé executive Paul Polman will replace Unilever CEO Patrick Cescau, with shares in the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate jumping the highest on the FTSE 100 in morning trading.
The manufacturer of Marmite and Slimfast has recruited Polman, currently executive vice president and zone director for the Americas at Nestlé, to take on the role of chief executive when Cescau retires at the end of the year.
The move is viewed as something as a coup for Unilever, with analysts stressing Polman’s wide appeal to investors.
Polman had previously been tipped to succeed Peter Brabeck-Letmathe at the head of Nestlé, but the company instead opted for former head of the Americas Paul Bulcke last September.
“Paul Polman is probably the best candidate in the world to become CEO of Unilever,” James Amoroso, director of Amoroso Strategic Insights, told just-food. “He has a deep knowledge of Nestlé and the food industry as well as decades of P&G and HPC experience. Moreover, he is a strong operational and financial operator with excellent communication skills. Investors will warm to this decision as Polman’s shareholder friendliness has been proven during his short term as CFO of Nestlé.”
During his four years at the head of Unilever, Cescau has spearheaded the group’s reorganisation, which has seen it re-evaluate its brand portfolio, shed units, cut jobs and reduce costs in order to refocus its business on higher-margin products and drive profit growth.
Amoroso said that Polman was a capable candidate to advance Unilever’s continued recovery.
“Cescau has already made dramatic, positive changes to Unilever’s business model, the implications of which however have not yet been fully recognised by the market. Polman will focus the market’s attention on this,” Amoroso said. “More importantly, he will make the right decisions going forward to accelerate these changes as well as bring in changes of his own.”
Polman will be the first chief executive recruited from outside the company in Unilever’s 78-year history
Unilever shares had increased 91 pence, or 6.11%, to GBP15.81 at 10.15am BST this morning (4 September).