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Business

After rebuff, Kraft Heinz still has its eye on Unilever

The two companies make hundreds of household names - but Unilever says they're better off separate. Kraft Heinz begs to differ - arguing size is everything in the food and consumer products sector.

Kraft Heinz says it'll still keep trying after its surprise offer to buy British-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever was rejected.

The shares of both companies surged to new highs in early trading after the 143-billion-dollar deal was announced. It would have created a global food and household products leader - bringing together Kraft cheese, Heinz ketchup, Oscar Mayer hot dogs and 200 other product lines with Unilever's 400 brands like Dove soap, Marmite yeast spread and Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Kraft Heinz's offer was 18 percent more than where Unilever's shares closed on Thursday. But Unilever said the price "fundamentally undervalues" the company, and that it saw no basis for further talks.

A combination of Kraft Heinz and Unilever would be the third-largest merger in history, with the merged entity rivaling Nestle as the world's biggest packaged food maker by sales.

Kraft Heinz has 42,000 employees in 40 countries, but its sales of $26.5 billion last year were dwarfed by Unilever's $48.3 billion. The London-based company employs 172,000 people worldwide.

Changing tastes, and in particular a shift away from boxed and canned groceries in favor of items that seem fresher or healthier has been driving consolidation in the food industry.

Pittsburgh-based Kraft Heinz itself was the product of a merger between the venerable ketchup and cheese makers two years ago.

sgb/jd (AP,AFP)

 

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