Unilever announces plans to sell margarine business

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Meanwhile, Unilever will establish an integrated Foods & Refreshment unit in order to create a "leaner and more focused business".

Unilever's CEO described the firm's pledges as a "transformation of our portfolio" with a "feasible" target as he attempted to soothe any lingering concerns from investors after a rejected takeover bid from its USA rival.

Unilever's London-listed shares, which have held onto the gains made by the Kraft bid as shareholders bet it would spur improved performance, closed up 1 percent at 39.78 pounds, while the FTSE 100 was down 0.3 percent.

It was also planning to boost dividends this year by 12% and launch a £4.3bn share buy-back by the end of 2017.

The food giant will also combine its food business with its refreshments division, which includes its beverage and ice cream brands like Ben & Jerry's and Lipton.

Following the strategic review, the company will merge its foods and refreshments operations, which had a combined 22.5 billion euros in revenue previous year.

He said Unilever would consider combining its dual-headed structure - in Britain and the Netherlands - into one, but said the choice of which might stand would not be impacted by Brexit.

He added: "After a long history in Unilever, we have decided that the future of the Spreads business now lies outside the Group".

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As well as cutting costs, Unilever will also splash out €5bn on a share buyback and raise its dividend 12pc this year.

A majority of Unilever investors polled by analyst Berenstein last month said that they would have supported further talks with Kraft, although the majority of those said they would have sought a 40% bid premium rather than the 18% initially offered.

Overall, Unilever said it expected to achieve annual cost savings of 4 billion to 6 billion euros ($4.25 billion to $6.4 billion) through the initiatives announced on Thursday and through previously announced cost cutting.

Analysts said the Kraft Heinz bid had been a "massive wake-up call" for the company. Unilever also plans to borrow more, setting a target for net debt to earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization of about two times, saying this level will give it flexibility for acquisitions or returning cash to shareholders.

The latest moves are aimed at making the company more attractive to investors and forestall any further unwelcome advances from rivals.

"The recent review has shown us that it can add complexity to structural portfolio change", Pitkethly said.

The company said it still expects underlying sales growth of 3-5 percent this year in challenging market conditions.

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