Unilever looks to UK government for better takeover regulation as chairman says shareholders support internal shake-up

Chairman Marijn Dekkers says Unilever has a “fundamentally different philosophical model” to 3G and Buffet (Source: Getty)

Unilever’s chairman Marijn Dekkers has said the company’s shareholders support the internal changes following Kraft Heinz abandoning its takeover bid.

In the wake of Kraft Heinz’s failed £115bn takeover bid for Unilever, the company behind Dove soap, Magnum ice-cream and Lynx deodorant, published the results of a strategic review on Thursday. It committed to rethinking Unilever’s dual Anglo-Dutch legal structure, increasing its dividend and debt levels and launching a €5bn (£4.3bn) share buyback and sell spreads, including Flora.

These plans represent a “balance” between a conservative approach and Kraft Heinz’s capitalist one, according to Dekkers. He told the Sunday Times that Unilever has a “fundamentally different philosophical model” to 3G and Buffet’s emphasis on “huge leverage and cost reduction”.

“Employees were generally surprised something like this could happen,” he emphasised.

Meanwhile, Unilever CEO Paul Polman is drawing attention to the regulations which allowed the aggressive takeover bid to occur in the first place. He is due to meet with Jeremy Haywood, the cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, and Greg Clark MP, the business secretary, at some point over the next two weeks.

Although Polman says the rules include some “good things”, he criticised the UK’s 51 per cent takeover hurdle and questioned whether the 28-day period for companies to respond to an unsolicited bid should be extended. “It’s like an earthquake or a natural disaster – you cannot be prepared for all the scenarios you have to deal with.”

Speaking to The Telegraph over the weekend he said “things need to improve”.

“That fast money coming in; do they have the same rights as a shareholder that has been with you for a longer period of time? Some countries make distinctions. The US has very high protection measures that are put in, that are called ‘poison pills’.”

Polman has had “extensive communication” with Dutch politicians but said his talks with the UK government have been delayed by the triggering of Article 50.

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