Unilever involved in bidding war for Reckitt Benckiser's £2bn-valued food business

 
William Turvill
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Reckitt Benckiser's food business comprises French's mustard (Source: Getty)

Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever is involved in a £2bn bidding war to buy Reckitt Benckiser’s food business.

The London and Amsterdam-listed firm is among a handful of companies understood to be competing for the operation behind French’s mustard.

Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Durex condoms and Nurofen, confirmed in April that it had initiated a strategic review of its food business “where we will explore all options for this great business”. The sale process is being handled by Morgan Stanley.

Unilever, whose interest was first reported by the Sunday Times, is facing competition from Spam owner Hormel Foods, and bids from other firms, such as spice specialist McCormick & Co and Birds Eye’s Pinnacle Foods, are expected.

Reckitt Benckiser proceeds from the sale would go towards paying off its debt incurred from buying baby food manufacturer Mead Johnson for $17.9bn (£13.7bn) earlier this year.

A Reckitt Benckiser spokesperson said: “We re-affirm that RB implemented a strategic process on 3 April 2017 and will update the market at an appropriate time.”

A Unilever spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on market speculation.”

Hormel Foods, McCormick and Pinnacle Foods have been approached for comment.

Unilever’s interest in the Reckitt Benckiser sale comes nearly six months after the company fought off a £115bn takeover approach from Kraft Heinz.

In a bid to win round shareholders, Unilever later unveiled a €5bn (£4.4bn) share buyback and launched the £6bn sale of its spreads business.

Read more: Reckitt Benckiser receives final approval for acquisition of Mead Johnson

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