Unilever said on Thursday it will exit its spreads business, increase its margin targets and review its dual-headed legal structure, as it aims to prove it can deliver growth following its rejection in February of a takeover proposal by Kraft Heinz.
The pledges are the result of a business review at the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods maker, undertaken following the unsolicited $143 billion bid by its U.S. rival.
Unilever, one of Europe’s biggest blue-chip stocks, called the episode a “trigger moment” to assess its business, as the global packaged goods industry faces slowing growth and greater competition.
The maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream said it was accelerating its cost-savings plan, targeting a 20% underlying operating margin, before restructuring, by 2020.
It said it would combine its refreshment business, which includes ice cream and tea, with the rest of its foods business, in a bid to unlock growth and grow margins faster.
It also said it would target net debt of 2 times EBITDA, and would launch a share buy-back this year of 5 billion euros ($5.3 billion).
It also said it was raising its dividend by 12%.