The fallout from the failed Unilever Kraft-Heinz merger continues to generate headlines as the weekend papers reveal more of the backroom machinations during the brief pursuit.
The Financial Times breaks news that Warren Buffett was persuaded to drop the $143bn takeover approach by the corporate financier Michael Klein. The former Citigroup executive, who has worked alongside Tony Blair on some deals, telephoned Buffett after Unilever’s fierce rejection to explain political sensitivities around the deal, according to people briefed on the discussion. A separate article asks: “Why it fell to Klein to point out the bleedin’ obvious, rather than the raft of other advisers on what would have been the second largest takeover of all time, is not quite clear.”
One of Unilever’s top shareholders has called for the consumer goods giant to be broken up in the wake of the failed takeover attempt by US rival Kraft Heinz, The Sunday Times reports. The top 10 investor said the group should sell off some or all of its £10.6bn food empire to “enhance the value” of its underperforming business. The Mail on Sunday adds that Unilever is on the brink of unveiling a cull of top products, including Flora margarine and Bertolli spreads, with a sell-off of the spreads decision pencilled on for as early as April.
The Telegraph writes that the City has given its blessing to “a dramatic break-up” of Unilever, which could see the food arm that makes Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Knorr stock cubes spun off into a new £30bn-plus company. The Times adds to the noise around the food business this morning. It adds that Unilever shareholders are prepared to back a demerger of its food operations. This morning The Financial Times in The FTView says that Unilever’s best option may be to do nothing: “After a bid attempt, the inclination to overreact needs to be resisted.”
The Telegraph and The Mail both pick up Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway in which he denounced “Wall Streeters” for charging “high fees” and urged ordinary investors to buy low-cost index funds. He also praised “talented and ambitious immigrants”.
The consultancy helping to make the competition case for Tesco’s merger with Booker has provoked concerns over a potential conflict of interest after winning a contract with the regulator, according to The Times. Frontier Economics, chaired by Lord O’Donnell, has been awarded work with the Competition and Markets Authority, the body under pressure to launch a formal investigation into the proposed tie-up.
Divine Chocolate has increased net profits by more than 38% to £443,000, according to its 2015-16 report and accounts (The Times).
Sales of Fairtrade goods have risen for the first time since 2013 as the increasing popularity of bananas and coffee sold under the ethical label offset falling sales of cocoa and sugar (The Guardian).
Caffè Nero, one of Britain’s biggest coffee shop chains, paid no corporation tax last year despite making profits of £25.5m because it is part of a wider group called Rome Pikco, which recorded an annual loss, The Sunday Times reports.
Exports of gin are expected to pass the £500m mark by this summer as the popularity of cocktails and craft spirits shows no signs of slowing (The Times). British tonic and mixer brand Franklin & Sons has entered its 30th market less than two years after exports began in October 2015 (The Mail on Sunday).
British strawberries, usually synonymous with summer, are appearing on supermarket shelves this week, more than two months before the traditional start of the season (The Guardian).
The Financial Times examines the rise of premium beer in China and its impact on small brewers.