UNILEVER shares took a battering yesterday as investors fled the FTSE 100 giant following news of three failed bids for Panadol-maker GLAXOSMITHKLINE's (GSK) consumer healthcare group.
Shares plunged as much as seven per cent in early trading making the firm the fastest faller on the FTSE 100, before it regained some ground later in the day.
Reports of the failed £50bn cash-andshare approach from Marmite-maker Unilever spurred more of a hate it than love it reaction from the markets as GSK shares soared faster than any FTSE 250 firm, peaking at nearly five per cent above their opening price.
The rebuffed bids for GSK's consumer portfolio, which includes Sensodyne and Panadol, have now fuelled speculation of a bidding war erupting with both consumer goods giants and private equity firms reportedly circling the business.
Advent International, CVC Capital Partners and KKR have all previously shown interest in snapping up the consumer brands, according to Bloomberg, and bankers are preparing a hefty £25bn finance package for a private equity swoop.
Laura Hoy, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, told City A.M. that
Unilever's bids had also "shone a light" on the business to other potential consumer healthcare suitors.
She told City A.M.: "The Unilever bid was not well received by the market because Unilever on the surface doesn't look the best home, but it would be remiss of me to suggest that some of the other big names are not now looking at this."
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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 GSK shareholders also rounded on the offer from Unilever yesterday. Richard Buxton at Jupiter Capital Management, a top 30 shareholder in GSK, told the Financial Times: "The idea of letting the goons at Unilever run it is laughable."
Unilever Boss Alan Jope mounted a defence of the bid and rolled out a long-term plan to ramp up growth in its health, beauty and hygiene business, while pledging to offload slower-growing products.
The firm doubled down on the GSK bids, saying the portfolio was "a strong strategic fit" that offered a platform for growth in the US, China, and India.
"We believe that this would be an attractive and synergistic combination for the shareholders of Unilever, which would also deliver value and certainty for the shareholders of GSK and Pfizer,"
it said in a market update yesterday Analysts expect a successful bid would need to be around £5-10bn bigger.
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