Blackstone and CVC Capital Partners are set to launch a joint bid for Unilever's spreads division

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Unilever is divesting brands including Flora and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (Source: Vimeo)

Private equity firms Blackstone and CVC Capital Partners have requested approval from Unilever to make a joint bid for the company's £6bn international spreads division, which owns Flora and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, according to reports.

Former boss of Marks & Spencer, Marc Bolland, and ex-Unilever chief operating officer, Harish Manwani, are said to be involved in the offer, sources told Mark Kleinman at Sky News.

The two firms are also working together to buy card processing firm Paysafe.

This comes just after news of industry heavyweights Bain Capital and Clayton Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) forming a consortium to bid for the spreads division.

Apollo Management and KKR are said to be working on separate offers, and additional bidders are expected to appear over the next few weeks.

The consumer goods giant revealed a shake-up which included selling or demerging its spreads division in April prompted by the hostile £115bn takeover approach from US-based Kraft Heinz.

At Unilever's half-year results, chief executive Polman said: “The transformation of Unilever into a more resilient, more competitive and more profitable business is accelerating.”

He said it is “making our business even more agile, less complex and increasingly responsive to fast-changing consumer trends."

However, the firm recently missed out in a £2bn bidding war against US spice maker McCormick & Company for rival Reckitt Benckiser's food business.

Blackstone declined to comment while CVC and Unilever did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tags: Unilever