However, Unilever believed GSK was a potential purchase. In a statement, the company said, “GSK Consumer Healthcare is a leader in the attractive consumer health space and would be a strong strategic fit as Unilever continues to re-shape its portfolio.”
Unilever, the owner of brands like Dove, and lux, had proposed to acquire Glaxo’s household brands business, which has Panadol painkillers and Sensodyne toothpaste in its portfolio, in late 2021, but Glaxo’s board and Pfizer Inc.– a minority stakeholder in the business, rejected the bid as too low, the newspaper said.
Glaxo CEO Emma Walmsley is facing pressure from investors, including U.S. activist hedge fund Elliott Investment Management, to look for a shake-up of the company after it lagged in the COVID-19 vaccine race.
It also appointed former British supermarket group Chief Executive Dave Lewis in December to lead a spin-off and listing of the company’s consumer goods division this year. The division is likely to be listed on the London Stock Exchange listing.
Even though Glaxo had been preparing for the listing last fall, it had bids from Advent International, CVC Capital Partners and KKR & Co. for the business.
On the other hand, Unilever Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope is also facing pressure from some investors over the company’s not-so-praisable performance. Terry Smith, a noted British fund manager and Fundsmith LLP CEO, in his 12th annual letter to investors, slammed Unilever for being “obsessed with publicly displaying sustainability credentials at the expense of focusing on the fundamentals of the business”.
“A company which feels it has to define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has in our view lost the plot. The Hellmann’s brand has existed since 1913, so we would guess that by now, consumers have figured out its purpose (spoiler alert — salads and sandwiches). Although Unilever had by far the worst performance of our consumer staples stocks during the pandemic, we continue to hold the shares because we think that its strong brands and distribution will triumph in the end,” Smith said.
Since replacing Paul Polman as CEO in 2019, Jope has outlined a motto for Unilever called “brands with purpose”, a socially conscious strategy adopted by the company, which focuses on investments and marketing on brands that “communicate a strong environmental or social purpose”, even if they sacrifice profits.
Jope, however, has walked the talk of streamlining the company. The company disposed of the majority of its Tea business, including selling Pukka Tea and PGTips to CVC Capital Partners in a $5 billion deal. The company is exploring how to get rid of slow-growing beauty brands.
The Unilever stock has shed over 10% over the last 52-weeks, compared with PG stock which upped 18%, or Nestle, which gained 20%. Unilever failed to bank on the pandemic-induced boost in shopping for groceries and household goods that benefited its competitors.