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Unilever shares rally on bullish forecast expectations

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 9:19
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Unilever PLC (LON:ULVR) shares rallied on Wednesday afternoon after the consumer goods giant upgraded its profit margin expectations for the year and announced a “comprehensive review of options” to improve value for shareholders.

The move is being seen by many in the City as an attempt to try and fend off a potential renewed bid from Kraft Heinz Co (NASDAQ:KHC), which failed with a £115bn offer over the weekend.

Both sides came out and said that talks had ended “amicably”, but the nature of Unilever’s two statements today would suggest it is still wary of the US food group coming back for another bite of the cherry.

The group has some more time to prepare its defence and ensure its shareholders aren’t tempted by another takeover bid, as under London Stock Exchange takeover rules Kraft can’t renew its interest for another six months.

Unilever is conducting a comprehensive review of options available to accelerate delivery of value for the benefit of our shareholders. The events of the last week have highlighted the need to capture more quickly the value we see in Unilever,” the company said in a statement today.

The sale of its spreads business – which includes brands such as Flora – has long been mooted as possibility, a suggestion which is likely to be raised again in the light of recent events.

Another way of trying to “accelerate delivery of value” for shareholders could see Unilever step up the cost-cutting measures it introduced last year, which already seem to be having a positive effect on margins.

“The management of Unilever now expects core operating margin improvement for 2017 to be at the upper end of its 40-80 basis points guidance,” read the company’s second news release of the afternoon.

Shares were up more than 5% to £37.77, not too far off Friday’s highs immediately following the bid.

Story by ProactiveInvestors


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