Unilever is busily reorganising itself to see off bidder-in-the-wings Kraft Heinz – exiting spreads (once the major part of its business), upping the dividend and slashing marketing (it seems).
One way to make your self unpalatable to a predator is to go out and buy something big which means, among other things, that your borrowings rise spectacularly while the said predator might not fancy your acquisition or the increased debt.
Is US FMCG rival Colgate-Palmolive in Unilever’s sights? Some in the City reckon it might be: it would be a good fit with Unilever’s personal care business. Unilever isn’t particularly big in toothpaste for example. There would be competition issues but Colgate is valued at $65bn, way behind Unilever’s $150bn (boosted by Kraft Heinz’s interest). So an opportunistic bid is certainly possible if Unilever CEO Paul Polman is bold enough.
Meanwhile Unilever is launching Baby Dove in the US, a pretty obvious move seven years after it moved into the male market.
Baby products can get you into trouble as Nestle has found out in the past while Johnson & Johnson is fighting fighting cancer claims. But cradle to grave Dove seems a pretty good idea.