Unilever completes overhaul with £730m laundry unit sale

Unilever completed the bulk of its asset fire sale yesterday after a private equity group secured its North American laundry business for $1.45bn (£730m), its second major deal in a week.

The deal is the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate's largest sale since announcing in August last year it was to divest a portfolio of non-core businesses with a combined annual turnover of €2bn.

The news sent its shares up almost 3 per cent to £15 in London yesterday.

Some investors speculated that it could lead to the group increasing its buyback programme, although a spokesman said the company had not decided what to do with the proceeds.

Unilever agreed to sell its laundry business in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico to Vestar Capital for a cash payment of $1.07bn and shares in the resulting company worth $375m.

A spokesman said: "The bulk of the selling programme has been completed with this deal. We have sold businesses with a turnover of €1.6bn out of the €2bn expected." The assets sold have brought in just over $3.6bn.

Vestar will merge the business, which has brands including Surf, Snuggle and Sunlight, with its existing Huish Detergents subsidiary to create a company called The Sun Products Corporation.

Unilever put the laundry division up for sale almost a year ago, and a spokesman for the company said: "We are happy with the result, we got a fair price. It took a while, but the beauty of not having a strict deadline to sell meant we could hold out on price."

Patrick Cescau, Unilever's group chief executive, said it was a good deal for shareholders and the business. "It puts our North American laundry people and brands into a company which is focused on the laundry category and which, with its new combined portfolio, is well-positioned to become a strong player in their market." He added that the laundry business will remain "an important category" for Unilever outside North America, with the deal allowing it to focus on boosting operations in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

This came just six days after the sale of its Bertolli olive oil and vinegar business to Spain's Grupo SOS for €630m (£500m). A spokesman said the group had held on to the brand's margarine, pasta sauce and frozen meals businesses as there was room for growth, but saw the olive oil business as almost a "commodity".

Among the businesses already sold under the overhaul plans were Boursin, the French cheese group, picked up by Le Groupe Bel for €400m in November. Later the same month it sold its marinades businesses Lawry's and Adolph's to McCormick & Company for €410m.

Unilever is seeking a successor to Mr Cescau, who is expected to stand down next May.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Stockbroker

£Basic (OTE) + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Stockbroker (qualified / p...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Adviser

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Guru Careers: Application Support Analyst / 1st Line Support

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence