Consumer goods giant Unilever has struck a 6.8 billion euro (£6 billion) deal to sell its under-performing spreads business to private equity firm KKR, the company has announced.
If it wins regulatory approval, the deal is expected to be complete by the middle of next year.
Unilever said it would return net cash from the sale to shareholders, if it fails to pinpoint a “value-creating acquisition”.
The spreads business includes a raft of household brands, including Becel, Flora, Country Crock, Blue Band, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Rama and ProActiv.
Johannes Huth, head of KKR EMEA, said: “The strength of the portfolio of consumer brands in spreads provides a firm foundation for future growth.
“We look forward to deploying our global network and operational expertise to support the business’s growth ambitions while continuing to follow Unilever’s responsible sourcing policies, including working towards the goal of sourcing 100% sustainable palm oil by 2019.”
Shares in Unilever closed up more than 1% on the London Stock Exchange.
The Anglo-Dutch group, which is behind Dove, Marmite and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, posted a 2.6 per cent increase in underlying sales in October to £11.8bn, below expectations and down from 3 per cent in the first half of the year.
Unilever, which employs 169,000 people worldwide, announced in April that it would offload some of its best-known brands - including Flora and Stork - after fending off a £115bn takeover attempt from Kraft Heinz. It plans to sell its underperforming spreads business, which could yield up to £6bn.
Earlier this year, Unilever also struck a £1.9bn deal to buy South Korean cosmetics firm Carver Korea. It bought the business from Bain Capital Private Equity, Goldman Sachs and the firm’s founder, strengthening its foothold in the Asian beauty market.