Theresa May is bracing for Unilever to choose the Netherlands over the UK for its new unified headquarters, after months of political pressure from both sides and amid an “emotional” atmosphere supercharged by Brexit, The Financial Times writes. UK officials have held talks with Unilever amid fears at the top of government that the Anglo-Dutch consumer group is about to decide to have its main base in Rotterdam, rather than London. Although, the paper adds, the government has not lost all hope of winning the tussle. Lex in The Financial Times notes that if Unilever does move its UK headquarters it will be likely seen by the UK government as a vote of no-confidence in Brexit-era Britain. But the column says the more complex reality is that the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods group has been “rattled” by a takeover approach emblematic of modern Anglo-Saxon capitalism. “It will be easier for Unilever to take the moral high ground from the Low Countries,” the paper writes. “Laws there permit bid defences that are prohibited in the UK.” Boss Paul Polman earlier this month said the group was likely to complete its review into where to house its legal base by the end of the first quarter, The Telegraph adds. It is now thought that a decision is likely to come during the second week of March, during its next scheduled board meeting, although no decision has yet been taken.
A new range of cocoa-based beauty products and 10 store openings helped Hotel Chocolat chalk up double-digit profit and revenue growth in the second half of last year, The Telegraphreports. The company’s revenues grew 14.7% to £71.7m in the six months to December as it opened 10 new stores and customers snapped up £68 advent calendars, which included mini bottles of flavoured gin and vodka, the paper writes. The Times notes that Christmas recipe box sets were the bestselling items during the period, with hampers and chocolate gift sets doing well online.
The Times says “Skyr’s the limit for Arla Foods” as much of the group’s growth last year came from the Icelandic-style yoghurt. Its Lurpak and Anchor brands grew by 9% and 16%, while its Arla range, which includes Skyr, increased by 18%.
The chicken delivery crisis which led to the closure of most of KFC’s stores this week could see one in 10 of its staff worse off, the company has said (The Telegraph). Trade unions have demanded that KFC step in to ensure that workers continue to be paid whilst hundreds of its restaurants are closed because of failed chicken deliveries (The Times).
The location for Amazon’s second mega-headquarters may have been revealed after thousands of curious employees flooded a shortlisted city’s local news website in Arlington, Virginia, The Telegraph reports. The technology giant is on the hunt for its second home, where it will create 50,000 “high-paying” jobs and spend $5bn on designing a new building to rival its original post in Seattle.
Australian shares of baby formula maker a2 Milk surged as much as 26% to an all-time high on Wednesday after the company reported record half-year profit on rising demand from China and Asia (The Financial Times). The company reported net profit after tax of NZ$98.5m ($72.3m) for the six months to end of December, up 150% from the same period last year as its China and other Asia business recorded “exceptional growth”.
The new boss of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire has admitted that complacency and a lack of investment in its Italian branded chain forced it to launch its recent rescue plan (The Telegraph). Jon Knight also admitted that the business had “lost its way” and had become “a bit complacent”, but he insisted that the closure of some outlets would pave the way for the restoration of its fortunes (The Times).