Unilever CEO Paul Polman © World Economic Forum/Flickr
The chief executive of Unilever, Paul Polman, has said ‘there should be a level playing field’ for takeovers of publicly listed companies, after it turned down a surprise $143 billion approach from US food company Kraft-Heinz.
Kraft-Heinz, which turns over less than half the amount of Anglo-Dutch Unilever, ‘amicably agreed’ to withdraw its interest after its initial offer was rebuffed.
A merger would have created the world’s second largest food company after Nestlé, with turnover in 2016 of more than €75 billion, FoodBev reported at the time.
Unilever boss Polman has told the UK’s Financial Times that the way takeovers are handled in the UK needs to change to protect companies like Unilever – the maker of Marmite and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – which contribute greatly to the country’s economy.
Following the takeover bid, the prime minister of the UK, Theresa May, ordered senior government officials to determine whether an intervention was appropriate in deals of this magnitude, where a company listed overseas specifically targets a British – or in the case of Unilever, part-British – competitor.
As a result, ministers will draw up an amendment to the UK’s Takeover Code, which could include a responsibility to protect ‘national critical infrastructure’ from falling into foreign hands.
It’s not yet clear if large food companies like Unilever would have fallen under this category.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020