The maker of Knorr soup and Dove soap announced the deal on
Friday, hours after Reuters reported that KKR had entered
exclusive talks to buy the shrinking business after outbidding
The brands to be sold include Becel, Flora, Country Crock and
Blue Band. Unilever put the business up for sale in April,
following a review of its assets prompted by February's
unsolicited $143 billion takeover attempt by Kraft Heinz
"The announcement today marks a further step in reshaping and
sharpening our portfolio for long-term growth," said Chief
Executive Paul Polman. "The consideration recognizes the market
leading brands and the improved momentum we have achieved."
The spreads business has been in decline for years as people eat
less bread and margarine, but Unilever has taken steps to stem
the decline and the unit is very profitable. That made it
attractive to private equity firms who were the main bidders in
the auction run by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
Based in New York, KKR had $153 billion in assets under
management as of the end of September. The firm has a long
history in the consumer sector and it has investments in India's
Coffee Day Resorts and Chinese white goods maker Qingdao Haier.
Earlier this year, KKR bought majority control of vitamin maker
The deal with Unilever is expected to close mid-2018, subject to
regulatory approvals and employee consultations.
Unilever, whose sales unexpectedly slowed in October, said it
plans to return the cash to shareholders, unless more
value-creating acquisition options arise.
This year Unilever has snapped up small brands including Tazo
tea, Sundial Brands and Carver Korea.
Unilever said last month it favored ending its dual Anglo-Dutch
structure to become a single entity, but it has delayed a
decision whether it would be based in Britain or the
(Additional reporting by Martinne Geller in London; Editing by
Nick Zieminski and Elaine Hardcastle)
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