Make us your home page
Instagram

Unilever rejects initial $143 billion takeover bid by Kraft Heinz

 At left, in a March 25, 2015, file photo, a Heinz ketchup sign is shown on the side of the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. At right, also in a March 25, 2015, file photo, the Kraft logo appears outside of their headquarters in Northfield, Ill. U.S. food giant Kraft Heinz Co. is confirming that it's made an offer to buy Europe's Unilever and been rejected. The company said Friday that talks are ongoing with the Dutch company, but that no deal can be assured. [Associated Press]

At left, in a March 25, 2015, file photo, a Heinz ketchup sign is shown on the side of the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. At right, also in a March 25, 2015, file photo, the Kraft logo appears outside of their headquarters in Northfield, Ill. U.S. food giant Kraft Heinz Co. is confirming that it's made an offer to buy Europe's Unilever and been rejected. The company said Friday that talks are ongoing with the Dutch company, but that no deal can be assured. [Associated Press]

NEW YORK — Kraft Heinz is attempting to buy Unilever in a $143 billion deal that would join the U.S. maker of cheeses and lunch meats with the European producer of mayo, teas and seasonings in a global powerhouse.

Unilever rejected the approach and called the price too low, while Kraft Heinz says it's still interested in a deal. The shares of both companies surged to new highs as investors saw prospects for cost cutting.

A combination of Kraft Heintz, which sells Oscar Mayer meats, Jell-O pudding and Velveeta cheese, and Unilever, which owns brands including Hellmann's, Lipton and Knorr, would rival Nestle as the world's biggest packaged food maker by sales.

That might not lead to big changes that customers would notice on the supermarket shelves. But it's people's changing tastes, shifting away from boxed and canned groceries in favor of items that seem fresher or healthier, that's driving deal-making in the food industry.

Companies like Kraft Heinz, itself formed from two century-old businesses in 2015, are trying to find new avenues for growth amid heightened competition.

Part of the challenge is the proliferation of smaller food makers marketing more wholesome products, which makes it harder for the established companies to drive up sales simply by selling more of their well-known products or by raising prices, as they have in the past.

"That obviously has its limits," said David Garfield, head of the consumer products unit at consulting firm AlixPartners.

Instead, companies are being forced to dig deeper to find cost efficiencies or tap into new markets, Garfield said. That can include mergers that result in consolidated manufacturing systems, or that give companies access to distribution networks in regions of the world where they don't have a big presence.

Those were some of the factors that drove Oreo and Chips Ahoy maker Mondelez International — which was split from Kraft in 2012 —to make an unsuccessful takeover bid for Hershey last year before retreating. And they were among the reasons cited by executives in the Kraft Heinz tie up, which was engineered by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, the Brazilian investment firm with a history of taking over companies and aggressively cutting costs.

Bernardo Hees, a 3G partner, has slashed jobs and pursued other savings, some of them granular, as CEO of Kraft Heinz. In a 2015 memo to employees, Hees reminded them to print on both sides of the paper, reuse office supplies like binders and turn off computers before leaving the office to cut down on energy costs.

The company also stopped stocking the corporate office with free Kraft snacks.

Unilever follows Nestle, PepsiCo and Mondelez as the world's biggest packaged food maker by retail sales, coming in ahead of Kraft Heinz, according to Euromonitor International. In addition to its food products, it sells health and beauty products such as Axe body spray and Dove soap.

In the meantime, food and drinks companies like Coca-Cola Co., General Mills Inc. and Kellogg Co. are also under pressure from Wall Street to slash costs and find products that suit the shifting customer preferences.

While mega-deals are tough to pull off, they've made an array of acquisitions of smaller, faster-growing brands. Campbell Soup is trying to shed its canned-food image, and has bought juice and bagged carrots maker Bolthouse. General Mills now owns Annie's, Hormel owns Applegate meats and Justin's nut butters, and Dr Pepper recently bought Bai Brands, a maker of drinks sold as rich in antioxidants.

Shares of Kraft Heinz rose 8 percent Friday. Unilever PLC jumped almost 12 percent.

Kraft Heinz

Headquarters: Pittsburgh

Employees: 42,000 in 40 countries

Sales: $26.5 billion in 2016

Brands: More than 200, including Oscar Mayer, Jell-O, Velveeta, Ore-Ida, Classico, Capri Sun, Grey Poupon, Planters, Maxwell House, Kool-Aid and Philadelphia

Unilever

Headquarters: London

Employees: About 172,000 worldwide

Annual Sales: $48.3 billion in 2016

Brands: More than 400, including Dove, Hellman's, Lipton, Knorr, Axe, Ben & Jerry's, Country Crock, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Noxema, Popsicle, Q-tips and Vaseline

-- Associated Press

Unilever rejects initial $143 billion takeover bid by Kraft Heinz 02/17/17 [Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2017 1:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA

    Agriculture

    Tony DiMare, a third-generation Florida tomato grower, has spent two decades contending with cheap Mexican imports, watching his neighbors abandon crops in their fields and sell off their farms when they couldn't match the price of incoming produce.

    Workers fill a trailer with tomatoes as they harvest them in the fields of DiMare Farms in Florida City. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images(2013)]
  2. Pinellas deputies go door-to-door at dawn to arrest unlicensed contractors

    Crime

    Pinellas deputies began pounding on doors at 5 a.m. Tuesday, part of a widespread roundup of contractors accused of working without licences and workers compensation.

    Pinellas Sheriff deputies J. Short, left, and T. Festa, right, arrest suspect Randy Ronchi, center, in Largo early Tuesday, as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  3. HQ2 watch: As deadline looms for Amazon headquarters pitch, one metro bows out

    Business

    If there's one national business saga to keep up on these days, it's the frenzy by metropolitan areas — including Tampa Bay — to make their best pitches to Amazon in the hope of being chosen as the new location for the giant online retailer's second massive headquarters. HQ2, as it is called, would create …

    Cities across the country are trying to land Amazon's second headquarters, known as HQ2. In Birmingham, Ala., giant Amazon boxes were constructed and placed around the city as part of its "Bring A to B" campaign. [Ali Clark/Bring A to B Campaign]
  4. Shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations rebound from stronger earnings report

    Corporate

    TAMPA — After a sharp drop in its stock price in August and September, Health Insurance Innovations on Monday announced strong revenue and net income gains in preliminary numbers for its third quarter of the year. The company also announced a $50 million stock buyback over the next two years meant to bolster its …

    After losing more than half its market value between August and September, shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations are rebounding."The new share repurchase program underscores our confidence in our business strategy, financial performance, and the long-term prospects of our company while also allowing us the financial flexibility to continue to invest in our business," company CEO Gavin Southwell announced Monday. [Courtesy of LinkedIn]
  5. Trigaux: Campaign aims to leverage tourism ads to recruit millennials, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay's unleashing one of its best weapons — a cadre of successful entrepreneurs and young business leaders — in a marketing campaign already under way but officially …

    Erin Meagher, founder of Tampa coconut oil products company Beneficial Blends, is part of a group of business savvy millennial entrepreneurs and managers who are helping to pitch the work-live-play merits of the Tampa Bay market in a new marketing campaign called Make It Tampa Bay. The campaign is backed by Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and aimed at recruiting more millennial talent to relocate and stay in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Visit Tampa Bay]