Bestfoods is proving a tricky takeover target for Unilever but it could well get there in the end Will they, won't they? Will Bestfoods' managers agree to start talks with Unilever over a possible takeover? Will Unilever be forced to raise its $18bn cash bid for the US food producer? Or will Heinz, as many pundits predict, enter the fray with its own $72 a share paper offer? Plenty of questions, to which there were still no answers as we went to press on Thursday. Analysts think Unilever may have to raise its offer from $66 to $72 a share to clinch the deal. But the Anglo-Dutch group was saying little new when announcing its first quarter results this week. Unilever's pretax profit was down 2% to £570m, partly as a result of its strategy of pruning product numbers from 1,200 to 400. Sales were up just 1% during the quarter to £5.78bn ­ but on the chosen 400 they were up 3%. Profit margins were up 1.3% to 11.2%. The strong figures pleased investors, boosting Unilever's share price. It may seem odd that as well as culling brands, Unilever is hard on the acquisition trail, having bought Ben and Jerry's and Slimfast. But they, like Bestfoods, have brands with global growth potential. And Unilever is keen to get its hands on Bestfoods' portfolio which includes Knorr, Mazola and Hellmann's. After some doubts, Unilever investors seem to be convinced by the logic of the deal ­ which is why it is clearly irritated that Bestfoods' managers don't want to play ball. But its strategy is to bide its time in the hope that Bestfoods' shareholders will force the company into talks ­ and at the current $66 a share offer. And the fact Unilever is offering cash ­ rather than paper ­ should ensure it beats Heinz in any battle to secure Bestfoods. {{NEWS }}