The proposed £115bn takeover of Unilever by Kraft Heinz has been called off, just two days after the offer was announced.
The takeover of the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant would have been one of the largest deals in corporate history but was resisted at Unilever and had provoked political unease over British jobs. Unilever rejected the offer by the American firm on Friday, describing the approach as having “no merit, strategic or financial”.
Kraft Heinz was expected to return with a higher offer, but late on Sunday the two firms issued a surprise joint statement announcing no deal would go ahead. It said: “Unilever and Kraft Heinz hereby announce that Kraft Heinz has amicably agreed to withdraw its proposal for a combination of the two companies.
“Unilever and Kraft Heinz hold each other in high regard. Kraft Heinz has the utmost respect for the culture, strategy and leadership of Unilever.”
The US food giant had been preparing to meet top tier shareholders, which include BlackRock, Leverhulme Trust and Legal & General, to convince them to accept the deal.
But the strength of resistance to the proposal saw Kraft decide over the weekend to back away. As well as Unilever’s clear reluctance, unions had raised fears over jobs, and discussions had started with the business secretary, Greg Clark, over a move that appeared to have strong echoes of the takeover of Cadbury’s by Kraft in 2010, a deal singled out for criticism by Theresa May last year.
A spokesperson for Kraft Heinz said: “[Our] interest was made public at an extremely early stage. Our intention was to proceed on a friendly basis, but it was made clear Unilever did not wish to pursue a transaction.
“It is best to step away early so both companies can focus on their own independent plans to generate value. We remain focused on driving long-term value while always putting our consumers first.”