Business

Unilever: Profile of a consumer goods giant

Unilever products Image copyright PA
Image caption Unilever is behind some of Britain's best-known brands

UK-based household goods maker Unilever has rejected a takeover bid of about $143bn (£115bn), one of the biggest in corporate history, from US giant Kraft Heinz.

Unilever's leading brands include Marmite, PG Tips, Pot Noodle, St Ives, Vaseline, Lipton, Knorr, Ben & Jerry's, Brut, Magnum and Persil.

The deal - if it was to eventually succeed - would be the biggest acquisition of a British company on record, based on offer value.

Steve Clayton, fund manager at Hargreaves Lansdown, said such a deal would create enormous cost savings.

"Putting portfolios of brands together can create huge synergies across marketing, manufacturing and distribution, even before you think about cutting the combined HQ back to size," he said.

"Kraft Heinz are attempting a massive push on the fast forward button, for to acquire the sheer scale of brands that Unilever represents through one-off acquisitions could take decades.

"With debt cheap and abundant right now, Kraft have spotted their opportunity."

Globally, it would be the second-biggest deal behind Vodafone Airtouch's takeover of Germany's Mannesmann AG for $172bn (£138bn) in 1999.

Supermarket clash

Unilever announced last month that annual pre-tax profit rose to 7.47bn euro (£6.3bn) from 7.2bn euro (£6.1bn) last year, but revenues dropped 1% to 52.7bn euros (£44.7bn), while underlying sales rose by a lower-than-expected 3.7%.

Unilever clashed with supermarket Tesco in October over its attempts to raise prices to compensate for the steep drop in the value of the pound.

Unilever's best-known brands include:

Image copyright Alamy
  • Food: Ben & Jerry's; Bovril; Colman's; Cornetto; Flora; Hellmann's; I Can't Believe It's Not Butter; Knorr; Magnum; Marmite; Pot Noodle; Wall's
  • Drink: Lipton; Lyons tea; PG Tips;
  • Household: Comfort; Domestos; Dove; Lynx; Persil; Radox; Sure; Surf; Timotei; Tresemme; Vaseline

Kraft Heinz brands include:

  • Food: Amoy; Heinz Ketchup; Heinz Soup; HP Sauce; Kraft Mac & Cheese; Lea & Perrins; Philadelphia; Weight Watchers Smart Ones
  • Drink: Capri Sun; Kool-Aid

William Hesketh Lever, founder of Lever Brothers, wrote down his ideas for Sunlight Soap in the 1890s.

It was "to make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness, that life may be more enjoyable and rewarding for the people who use our products".

In 1887, William Lever bought the site where Port Sunlight would be built, a large factory on the banks of the Mersey opposite Liverpool with a purpose-built village for its workers providing a high standard of housing, amenities and leisure facilities.

Lever Brothers and Dutch business Margarine Unie signed an agreement to create Unilever in 1929.

Kraft merged with Heinz in 2015 to create one of the US's biggest food companies.

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