Unilever has “lost the plot”, according to one of its top ten shareholders who has accused the group of being obsessed with burnishing its sustainability credentials at the expense of the business (The Times £). Unilever has “lost the plot” and its management prizes displaying its sustainability credentials at the expense of running the business, according to influential fund manager Terry Smith (The Financial Times £). One of Britain’s best known investors has attacked Unilever for its “ludicrous” focus on sustainability, in a sign of growing City frustration at blue chip companies championing fashionable causes (The Telegraph). Fund manager Terry Smith has blasted Unilever for being ‘obsessed’ with its sustainability credentials (The Daily Mail). 

Nils Pratley in The Guardian writes: “Smith’s criticisms play into a general sense that Unilever has drifted back into comfortable mode. In reality, the corporate emphasis on “purpose” may not be the problem since it has always been part of Unilever’s makeup. Rather, it’s the failure to convert those “value” credentials, which are supposed to be a commercial advantage these days, into serious acceleration in the profits line.” (The Guardian)
Bain Capital and CVC Capital Partners are assembling a joint bid for the retail behemoth, which trades from more than 2,000 stores and employs over 50,000 people (Sky News). Private equity groups Bain Capital and CVC Capital Partners have teamed up to work on a planned bid for Boots after its US owner hired advisers last month to explore options for the UK high street chemist chain, including a sale (The Financial Times £). The private equity firms CVC and Bain Capital have joined forces on a potential takeover of Boots (The Times £). The architect of Boots’ takeover deal in 2007 is mulling a new bid for the chemist chain as CVC Capital considers joining forces with Bain Capital (The Telegraph). Two of the world’s biggest private equity firms have joined forces to launch a multi-billion- pound bid for Boots (The Daily Mail). Two of the world’s largest private equity firms are teaming up to bid for Boots, which is expected to be sold by its US owner this year for an estimated £10bn (The Guardian). 

Lidl was the fastest-growing grocer in the UK for the second year running during the Christmas period (The Times £). Lidl has claimed to be the fastest-growing bricks and mortar retailer in the UK following bumper Christmas sales (Sky News). 

Britain’s leading supermarkets have embarked on a price war in a boost to millions of families facing a cost of living crisis. In a bold sign of intent, Lidl vowed to be the lowest-priced supermarket in the UK this year a day after Aldi made exactly the same promise. (The Daily Mail

Marks & Spencer was the UK’s fastest-growing food retailer in the run-up to Christmas as shoppers returned to the high street after last year’s lockdown, according to an independent report. (The Guardian

Inflation in the developed world has hit a 25-year high in a worrying sign of the pressure on household budgets. The cost of living across the 38 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) jumped by 5.8 per cent in the year to November – the highest rate since May 1996. (The Daily Mail)  

Farmers are no more than collateral damage in supermarkets’ price war, writes Ben Marlow in The Telegraph. “In the food industry those at the sharp-end are suppliers, many of them battle-weary farmers, who are the first to be squeezed whenever a price war erupts at the tills. British farmers were eking out a living long before the pandemic came along but the upheaval of Covid, and before that, Brexit, has pushed many to the brink of financial ruin.” (The Telegraph

Germany-based global food delivery company Delivery Hero are aiming to break even in the second half of the year, proposing to grow their core business through, in effect, a mix of eyeball catching and financial engineering. If your customer can’t afford larger meals, finance them. If your suppliers can’t get the credit to expand their kitchens, do that too. (The Financial Times £

‘Super app’ Bolt is now worth more than £6bn - and its founder says it’s going faster than the competition. The platform, a rival to Uber, plans to use newly-raised funds to expand its ride-hailing, scooter rental, car sharing, and delivery businesses. (Sky News