Unilever hits out at failed Kraft Heinz bid attempt in AGM
Sign up to myFT Daily Digest to be the first to know about Paul Polman news.
Ouch. Unilever may have beaten off Kraft Heinz’s $143bn bid but the bruises still show.
Paul Polman, chief executive, told shareholders at the annual meeting in London on Thursday that: “Ostensibly the bid was from Kraft Heinz, a company less than half our size. In practice, the prime mover was a Brazilian private equity firm, 3G, with a reputation for deep cost-cutting and single-minded focus on shareholder value.”
Marijn Dekkers, the former head of Bayer who is chairing his first set of the Anglo-Dutch group’s annual meetings, said he was glad Kraft Heinz, had walked away quickly.
The Kraft Heinz model was “unsustainable” in the long-term,” he told shareholders, as it was based on “deep cost reductions; a highly leveraged balance sheet; and a relatively low investment level in brands and R&D.”
Apart from the odd awkward question, such as why Mr Polman was embarking on a €5bn share buyback, having previously been critical of such schemes – shareholders were supportive, with one praising the group’s “marriage of profitability and values”.
Mr Polman ducked a question about whether Unilever, which is examining whether to ditch its dual-headed structure, would favour the Netherlands over London as its base.
But he said he had met Sir Jeremy Heywood, the UK’s top civil servant, over Brexit policy – Mr Polman was a vocal supporter of the UK remaining in the EU – and would be back at Number 10, the prime minister’s residence, next week too over the issue.
Get alerts on Paul Polman when a new story is published