Unilever investors are gunning for it to be broken up after the Kraft Heinz deal failed

 
Emma Haslett
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Investors are calling for Unilever's food division to be spun-off (Source: Getty)

Some of Unilever's largest shareholders have spoken out after the failed takeover attempt by Kraft Heinz, calling for a break-up of the consumer products giant which could lead to its food brands, including Marmite and Ben & Jerry's, being separated off from its personal care division.

Matthew Tillman, fund manager at Allianz, Unilever's 14th biggest shareholder, told The Telegraph spinning off Unilever's £10.6bn food arm "makes sense".

"A spin-off makes sense on paper and if the management can make it work then we would be sold on that," he said.

"It would be the most palatable option".

Meanwhile, a top 10 investor told The Sunday Times Unilever "need[s] a full appraisal of everything" in order to "enhance the value" of its food business.

"It is thought that Unilever’s main 14 fund manager investors, which include Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3-G Capital, would approve of such a move, as greater shareholder value would be delivered," added Panmure Gordon analyst David Buik this morning.

Takeover attempt

The investors' discomfort comes days after Paul Polman, its chief executive, announced a review of its business following the failed takeover attempt by Kraft Heinz.

In a statement on Wednesday, Polman said it was conducting a review of options "to accelerate the delivery of value for the benefit of our shareholders".

The company added:

The events of the last week have highlighted the need to capture more quickly the value we see in Unilever.

Unilever's London-listed shares closed at 3,764p, 0.1 per cent lower, on Friday night. The previous Friday they had bounced as high as 3,797p, after processed cheese giant Kraft Heinz announced it had made a £115bn approach. Had it been accepted, it would have been the second-largest deal in corporate history.

However, at the time Unilever's board said it "sees no merit, either financial or strategic".

The following Monday it was all over, with Kraft announcing it had "amicably" agreed to abandon its proposed merger.

"Our intention was to proceed on a friendly basis, but it was made clear Unilever did not wish to pursue a transaction," said Kraft spokesperson Michael Mullen.

"It is best to step away early so both companies can focus on their own independent plans to generate value. We remain focused on driving long-term value while always putting our consumers first.”

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