In 2018, the health drink portfolio delivered total turnover of €550m

Unilever has agreed a €3.3bn deal to buy GlaxoSmithKline’s Indian consumer business, including malted milk drink Horlicks.

The deal will boost Unilever’s footprint in one its fastest growing markets, beating reported interest from fellow consumer giants Nestlé and Coca-Cola.

GSK confirmed plans to sell the nutrition business, which also includes the Boost drink brand, in March as it looked for cash to help fund its efforts to buy complete control of its consumer-health joint venture with Novartis.

In 2018, the health drink portfolio delivered total turnover of €550m (£489.6m), with 90% of those sales in India.

Unilever said the move was associated with its strategy of increasing its presence in health food categories and in high growth emerging markets.

The acquisition comes days after Paul Polman announced plans to retire from his position as CEO in January 2019, to be replaced by current beauty and personal care chief, Alan Jope.

Investors will be able to quiz the company’s leadership on the deal, as it is due to hold investor days in Mumbai on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Read more: Alan Jope: who is Unilever’s new chief executive?

“We are delighted to be acquiring the GSK Health Food Drinks portfolio. The iconic Horlicks brand has a deep heritage, credibility and resonance around the world,” commented Nitin Paranjpe, Unilever president for food and refreshment.

“The acquisition is transformative for our Foods and Refreshment business allowing us to enter the Health Foods Drinks category, further strengthening our position in health and wellness.

“It is rare to be able to acquire brands with such leading market positions and fantastic consumer equity in one of the world’s most exciting and fast-growing markets.”

Emma Walmsley, GSK’s CEO, said: “Horlicks has made a significant contribution to GSK and to the health of consumers across India for many decades and we believe Unilever is well placed to maximise its future potential.

“Proceeds from this transaction will be used to support the Group’s strategic priorities, including investing in our pharmaceutical business.”

The significantly smaller UK Horlick’s business was sold to Aimia Foods earlier this year for an undisclosed amount.