Shares in Unilever rose 64p to finish on £15.68 yesterday after the company revealed radical plans to cut its workforce and sell off brands.

The company said it planned to dispose of E2bn (£1.34bn) of turnover including its North American laundry operation and cut 20,000 jobs as part of a “radical shake-up” of the business.

It also reported a 3% increase in half-year pre-tax profit to E2.74bn (£1.84bn) on sales up 1% at E20bn (£13.4bn).

Analysts welcomed the changes. “They are starting to sort the business out,” Graham Jones, an analyst at Panmure Gordon told the Financial Times.

“The decision to sell North American laundry shows that sacred cows can now be tackled within Unilever,” Ian Kellett, an analyst at Numis Securities told the Guardian.

However, workers have demanded more information on the job cuts. "The implications for the UK are not spelt out in any way shape or form. That concerns us," said Brian Revell, T&G section of Unite national organiser for food and agriculture.

"We'll be opposed to any job losses in the UK but need much more information from the company. We'll be seeking an urgent and top level meeting to ascertain exactly what is being proposed."

The Grocer revealed last month that Unilever UK planned to make 350 job cuts by the end of 2008 and streamline its five UK divisions into two - food and home and personal care.