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Private equity firm KKR wins auction for Unilever’s spreads business

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Private equity firm KKR wins auction for Unilever’s spreads business

Related tags: Private equity

Unilever has received a binding offer from US buyout fund KKR to purchase its global spreads business for €6.825bn ($8bn) following an auction in which it saw off competing bids from CVC Capital Partners, Apollo Global Management, Clayton Dubilier & Rice, and Bain Capital.

Unilever had promised investors that it would boost the lackluster performance of the spreads division – which includes brands such as I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and Flora - following a failed $143bn bid from Kraft Heinz. 

Unilever CEO Paul Polman said: “The announcement today marks a further step in reshaping and sharpening our portfolio for long term growth. The consideration recognizes the market leading brands and the improved momentum we have achieved. I am confident that under KKR's ownership, the spreads business with its iconic brands will be able to fulfil its full potential as well as societal responsibilities."

Nicolas Liabeuf, CEO of the spreads unit, who will continue to lead the business, added: "There is a positive momentum in the performance of the spreads business and we are excited about continuing this journey with KKR. We are confident that our business and the entrepreneurial spirit of our people will thrive further under new ownership."

The deal - which is subject to regulatory approvals and employee consultation in certain jurisdictions, and excludes the South African spreads business - is expected to complete in mid-2018.  

Unilever's Spreads business includes brands such as Becel, Flora, Country Crock, Blue Band, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Rama and ProActiv.  It operates across 66 countries and generated revenues of €3bn ($3.6bn), EBITDA (before any carveout adjustments under new ownership) of €680m ($801m) in 2016.  

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1 comment

KKR may have bought more than they can chew

Posted by Bob Loblaw,

One thing that Unilever did well (or not well) depending on your position is cross brand spending. KKR will soon realize that the true trade spend on the category will be understated as Unilever has used funds from other brands to support the spreads business. It will be interesting journey for KKR for sure. Not sure if KKR has the expertise to drive the category without the huge trade spend.

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