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Unilever's soap opera: M&A, job cuts and grumpy investors

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·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Illustration of Unilever logo
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(Reuters) - Unilever unveiled plans on Tuesday to cut about 1,500 management jobs in an overhaul aimed at easing shareholders' concerns after a failed acquisition and news an activist investor had built a stake in the consumer goods giant.

The maker of Dove soap and Magnum ice cream has had a bumpy few years, with shares falling about a quarter from highs seen in late 2019, and CEO Alan Jope's plans facing scrutiny.

Here are key developments around Unilever in the past two months.

NOV. 18, 2021:

Unilever agreed to sell its global tea business to CVC Capital Partners for 4.5 billion euros ($5.1 billion), concluding a process of reviewing and spinning off the division that took more than two years.

JAN. 15, 2022:

Unilever confirmed it had approached GlaxoSmithKline about buying its consumer goods business following media reports.

Later in the day, GSK said it had rejected Unilever's 50-billion-pound ($68 billion) offer, saying it "fundamentally undervalued" the consumer healthcare business.

GSK said it had received the third approach from Unilever on Dec. 20 and that it comprised 41.7 billion pounds in cash and 8.3 billion in Unilever shares.

JAN. 17

Unilever signalled it would pursue a deal for GSK's consumer business, calling it a "strong strategic fit," but shares slid more than 8%. The company also said it would announce an initiative later in the month to strengthen its business.

JAN. 19

Late in the day, Unilever said it would not raise its offer for GSK's consumer healthcare business from 50 billion pounds. Sources had told Reuters GSK would not engage with Unilever unless the offer was sweetened.

JAN. 20

Unilever shares slipped on its short-lived pursuit of GSK's consumer health assets. Influential British fund manager Terry Smith criticised the failed bid as a "near death experience" and urged Unilever to focus on strengthening performance.

JAN. 23

A source told Reuters that activist investor Nelson Peltz's hedge fund, Trian Partners, had built a stake of an unspecified size in Unilever, ratcheting up pressure on the company, months after Peltz stepped down from rival P&G's board.

JAN. 24

Unilever shares rose 6% on reports of Peltz's stake.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir and Mark Potter)

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