EU gives all-clear to Unilever/Bestfoods merger – European Union; Unilever acquires Corporaction Jaboneria Nacional

EU gives all-clear to Unilever/Bestfoods merger – European Union; Unilever acquires Corporaction Jaboneria Nacional – Brief Article

UK/Dutch concern Unilever has received the necessary approval from the European Commission regarding its merger with Bestfoods of the US. However, as a key condition, Unilever has had to sell off certain businesses, in markets where the Commission believes there are “overlap issues”.

In Sweden, Finland and Denmark, Unilever will dispose of its Bla Band brand, in the UK, both its Batchelors and Oxo brands will be sold off, and in Ireland, McDonnells and Oxo will have to go. In Belgium, Unilever will have to sell its Royco and Oxo brands, in Portugal, Royco will be disposed off and lastly in France, Royco will be sold as well as the Lesieur range of mayonnaise owned by Bestfoods. “We are pleased that the transaction has been given the green light by the European Commission. As anticipated, some parts of our business have to be sold, however, the merger with Bestfoods will bring major international brands into our business,” stated Anthony Burgmans and Niall Fitzgerald, Unilever’s chairmen.


The deal has now received the final green light for completion, approval from both sets of shareholders. The Anglo-Dutch conglomerate held two separate meetings, one in London, the other in Rotterdam, where shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favour of the deal. Unilever chairman Anthony Burgmans described the completion of the deal as an “outstanding strategic fit” and that the “exciting” acquisition of Bestfoods fits with Unilever’s ‘path to growth strategy’.


Following the completion of the deal, seven top executives from Bestfoods have been appointed top positions at Unilever’s food division. The appointments, which are effective from 1 January 2001, include Anthony Simon who becomes president of marketing, Diego Bevilacqua as president of foodservice, Neil Beckerman as president of Foods North America, and Oscar Imbellone as executive vice president foods Latin America, as well as several others, which can be found in the people column on page 14.


On top of the activity involving the major acquisition of Bestfoods, Unilever has also made a slightly less high profile acquisition by acquiring its partner in Ecuador. The food and home care giant has purchased Corporacion Jaboneria Nacional (CJN) for an undisclosed sum. Unilever and the Latin American firm have held an agreement for over 40 years, whereby CJN has employed Unilever’s technology and know-how as well as licensed the use of many brands. CJN, which was founded in 1911, has strong market position in Ecuador in detergents, toilet soaps, skin creams, dental care, margarine and edible oils, and generates annual sales of around US$100m ([euro]114.9m). In 1996, Unilever also acquired ice cream producer Pinguino, which combined with this latest acquisition, makes Unilever active in all its core products areas in Ecuador.


Unilever has said that the takeover of its partner firm CJN also highlights Unilever’s commitment to its presence in Latin America. In 1999, total sales for Unilever reached [euro]4.82bn, generating an operating profit of [euro]466m. Other Unilever acquisitions in the region include Sociedad Industrial Dominicana in the Dominican Republic, Cressida in Central America, and Varela in Colombia.

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