Belfast Telegraph

Kraft Heinz withdraws £115bn merger bid for Unilever

US food giant Kraft Heinz has withdrawn a £115 billion bid for a mega-merger with Unilever, the firms have said.

In a joint statement on Sunday the Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Philadelphia cheese manufacturer said it had agreed not to proceed with the offer it made on Friday for the Anglo-Dutch Marmite and PG Tips maker.

Unilever had already snubbed the offer, which represented an 18% premium on its closing share price of 50 US dollars per share (£40.26) on February 16, saying it "fundamentally undervalues" the firm.

The joint statement read: "Unilever and Kraft Heinz hereby announce that Kraft Heinz has amicably agreed to withdraw its proposal for a combination of the two companies.

"Unilever and Kraft Heinz hold each other in high regard.

"Kraft Heinz has the utmost respect for the culture, strategy and leadership of Unilever."

Unilever, which saw its London stock value rocket 12% on the news, had demanded its shareholders take no action after Kraft suggested a merger.

The Pot Noodle maker said it saw "no merit, either financial or strategic, for Unilever's shareholders", adding: "Unilever does not see the basis for any further discussions."

Kraft Heinz had remained optimistic a deal could still be reached, saying on Friday: "While Unilever has declined the proposal, we look forward to working to reach agreement on the terms of a transaction."

However, it said there was "no certainty" a formal offer would be made.

The US food giant had had until March 17 to table an official bid.

If successful, the tie-up would have been the biggest acquisition of a British company on record based on offer value.

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary said: "This will be of relief to thousands of workers across the UK.

"But this unsettling few days has once again illustrated the need for takeover rules to be strengthened to take into account issues like jobs, consumers and the national interest.

"How many scares must the Government put UK workers through before they actually do as they have promised, which is to make the takeover process socially responsible?

"If the government in the Netherlands can do this, then surely the Government in the UK can do this too.

"Our workers and communities are just as deserving of Government support."