2 of Britain's most popular spreads -- I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and Flora -- are up for sale

A tub of 'I can't believe it's not Butter' in a fridge, as Unilever, one of the world's largest consumer goods manufacturers, has been accused of David Davies/PA Wire/PA ImagesI Can’t Believe It’s Up For Sale!

LONDON — Consumer goods and food giant Unilever on Thursday announced plans to sell off its Spreads business as part of a new growth strategy spurred by rival Kraft’s recent attempted takeover.

Unilever said in a statement that after a review of the business “we have decided that the future of the Spreads business now lies outside the Group.”

The division includes well-known brands such as Flora, Stork, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and has an annual turnover of around €3 billion (£2.5 billion). Unilever plans to either sell or demerge the Spreads business.

The decision is part of a wider review of the business, sparked by US food giant Kraft’s recent attempted takeover. Other measures announced by Unilever on Thursday include a planned €5 billion (£4.2 billion) share buyback, a 12% dividend increase, and a target of 20% margin growth by 2020.

The Anglo-Dutch business, which has dual headquarters in both the UK and the Netherlands, says it will also review its legal structure as it adds complexity to the business. This suggests that the group, which makes everything from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to Dove soaps, may consolidate into one entity in either country.

CEO Paul Polman says in a statement: “Our recent review concluded once more that our strategy for long-term value creation through growth and compounding returns on investment is the right one for Unilever and for our shareholders. It also highlighted the opportunity to go faster and further.”

Unilever’s business review follows an unsolicited takeover approach from US rival Kraft Heinz in February. Unilever rejected the initial bid and the $US143 billion (£114 billion) offer was withdrawn after just two days.

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