Unilever to sell Flora as household giant regroups after Kraft takeover bid

A tub of'I can't believe it's not Butter in a fridge as Unilever one of the world's largest consumer goods manufacturers has been accused

A tub of'I can't believe it's not Butter in a fridge as Unilever one of the world's largest consumer goods manufacturers has been accused

As a part of a business review, Unilever will restructure in a bid to increase the gains of its cost-savings programme - a move created to placate shareholders following a tense, but ultimately failed, takeover bid from Kraft Heinz.

Unilever's CEO described the firm's pledges as a "transformation of our portfolio" with a "feasible" target as he attempted to soothe any lingering concerns from investors after a rejected takeover bid from its USA rival.

Unilever has announced plans to sell off its spreads division, including margarine brands Flora and Stork.

Unilever set a 20 percent underlying operating margin target for 2020, up from 16.4 percent in 2016, fueled by increased cost savings, which Goldman Sachs analysts said suggested 90 basis points of expansion per year, up from a prior goal of 40 to 80 points.

The consumer goods giant is also planning to buy back €5bn (£4.3bn) and raise its dividend by 12%, it said in a statement on Thursday.

The company said that it had achieved modest growth in sales of its spreads in emerging markets previous year, but that it was not enough to offset continued declines in developed markets, and it would seek to sell or separate the business.

It would launch a share buyback this year of 5 billion euros having not had a buyback program in place since 2008.

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And, most dramatic of all, Unilever will also review the "dual listing" structure under which its two entities - the Dutch-based Unilever NV and UK-based Unilever plc enjoy separate legal entities and stock market listings.

Unilever executives said they stood by their strategy to grow sales steadily in the long term and that this approach had found support in talks they held with investors including all of the top 50 shareholders. "The move ought to deter speculative bids such as that of Kraft Heinz". The merged company would have rivaled Nestle as the world's biggest packaged food maker by sales, but Unilever had said it would be able to unlock more value for shareholders by remaining independent and overhauling its operations.

Unilever said it expects €3.5 billion of costs over 2017 to 2019 related to the efficiency measures. "We will support our business with a higher level of leverage, while retaining the benefits of a strong credit rating", he said. "This will enable us to enhance value for shareholders through increased capital returns, while maintaining operational and strategic flexibility".

"The review has also highlighted the opportunity for accelerated development of our portfolio".

Paul Polman: the FTSE100-listed firm's chief executive officer said: "Our recent review concluded once more that our strategy for long-term value creation through growth and compounding returns on investment is the right one for Unilever and for our shareholders".

Unilever shares closed at 3,945.09 pence in London on Wednesday, extending a more than 19% gain over the past three months.

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