After takeover bid, Unilever announces major overhaul

After takeover bid, Unilever announces major overhaul

It raised its cost-savings target to 6 billion euros from 4 billion euros and said the dividend also will be increased by 12 percent.

It said on Thursday the unit has "responded well" to the focus, with reduced costs and increased cash generation while maintaining market share. The company said that it had achieved modest growth in sales of its spreads in emerging markets past year, but that it was not enough to offset continued declines in developed markets, and it would seek to sell or separate the business. Unilever is a major advertising client for WPP, whose Ogilvy & Mather agency makes ads for Dove. Get twice-daily updates on what the St. Louis business community is talking about.

Mr. Polman said Unilever's review of operations revealed that the company's strategy for growth is the right one, but also highlighted an opportunity "to go faster and further".

Executives said much of its improvement in margin would be realized through its food business, which now is planned to be combined with its refreshment business that includes Lipton tea and Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

Polman will return €5 billion to investors through share buybacks, its first such move for almost a decade, and hike the dividend by 12%, while accelerating the firm's self-help measures to generate an extra €2 billion in savings over the next three years.

Unilever said it is looking to double savings in overheads and advertising before 2020.

Unilever said the spreads business had achieved modest sales growth in emerging markets a year ago, but it was not enough to offset continued declines in developed markets.

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Overall, Unilever said various initiatives-including more efficient marketing spending and supply-chain savings-would allow it to increase cost savings from EUR4 billion to EUR6 billion.

"To fund it, Unilever is borrowing - increasing its net debt from about x1 earnings before nasties to x2 EBITDA".

The latest moves are aimed at making the company more attractive to investors and forestall any further unwelcome advances from rivals.

Under a restructuring sparked by the rebuffed $143 billion offer by its USA rival, the maker of Dove soap and Knorr soup set out an accelerated cost-saving plan, the sale of its Flora to Stork spreads business where sales are declining, and a review of its dual-headed Anglo-Dutch structure.

WPP (WPPGY) stock slipped in London Thursday after Unilever (UL), recently a target of Kraft-Heinz (KHC), took an ax to its advertising budget.

"The recent review has shown us that it can add complexity to structural portfolio change", Pitkethly said.

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