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Succession plan in motion, Unilever hopes for more of the same

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IFRS 9 Impairment How It Impacts Your Corporation And How We Can Help


Succession plan in motion, Unilever hopes for more of the same

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Since being forced into an embarrassing climb-down on the proposition to move its headquarters from London to Amsterdam in October, Unilever PLC has stayed out of the spotlight. That changed Nov. 29 when the consumer goods giant announced that CEO Paul Polman would be retiring after 10 years in charge.

Polman's departure was well-signaled, and investor reaction to the news was muted, with the share price barely budging. Furthermore, Alan Jope, Polman's successor and current president of Unilever's beauty and care division, has all the markings of a continuity candidate.

As seamless as the transition may be, Jope and Unilever NV still have issues to address, two of which stand out immediately. Days after the succession announcement, the company confirmed its €3.3 billion acquisition of GlaxoSmithKline PLC health food drinks brands. It is one of the larger acquisitions in the company's recent history, and while Unilever says the transaction will be immediately EPS accretive, the purchase price appears full, not surprising given that Nestlé SA and Coca-Cola Co. were also reported to be in the running. At a time of growing concerns of overheating in the M&A market, the deal will surely attract more scrutiny than many of the company's recent smaller acquisitions.

In addition, the headquarters relocation that caused such unhappiness in Unilever's shareholder base remains the elephant in the room. The company said at the time that it continued to believe in its plan and would consider further options. Such was the backlash at the time that Jope must tread very carefully if he is to revisit the matter.

Chart of the week

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Automotive

Ghosn departure may set stage for Renault-Nissan power struggle

Tensions over the lop-sided distribution of power between partners Nissan and Renault have come to the fore since the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, but all sides will lose if a struggle for influence jeopardizes their two-decade-old alliance, analysts say.

Experts: Changing auto industry could shift populations, auto workforce

Auto industry design engineers are focusing on two types of cars now: personal and autonomous.

Report finds 9.6 million EV chargers will be needed in US by 2030

Electric utility companies are well-positioned to help with the massive expansion of the nation's electric vehicle charging infrastructure needed to accommodate exponential growth in the EV market, according to a new report.

General Motors to cut car production, 15% of salaried employees in North America

The automaker also announced it is closing three assembly plants in 2019.

Honda to test connected, autonomous tech in Ohio in 2019

The testing will be done in a 35-mile "mobility" corridor, an executive said.

Retail

Unilever signals continuity as internal candidate named as new CEO

Unilever said CEO Paul Polman would step down at the end of 2018 and would be succeeded by Alan Jope, head of the beauty and personal care division.

Black Friday sales up YOY; driven by online, smartphone purchases

Consumers spent a record $6.22 billion online on Black Friday, according to an initial report from Adobe Digital Insights.

Cyber Monday sales set record, jump 19.3% YOY

Holiday shopping is expected to continue on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday momentum through Christmas.

Lawmakers continue to press Amazon on facial recognition software

Amazon has until Dec. 13 to respond to queries from members of Congress regarding its facial recognition technology.

Food, Beverage & Tobacco

Unilever to buy GSK's health food drinks brands for €3.3B

Unilever said the portfolio, which includes Horlicks, and the category had grown at a double-digit rate, but the category remains underpenetrated, allowing scope for further development.

Lettuce labeling to ease E. coli fears, but experts point to additional steps

Enhanced traceability and renewed efforts to avoid contamination on farms should also be part of plans to avoid and contain future outbreaks, experts said.

Analyst: Growth at grocers' private labels losing momentum

While still gaining market share against Kraft Heinz, Conagra and similar companies, own brands may be losing steam as grocers raise prices.

Potential Altria-Juul deal would benefit both companies, analysts say

A deal could help both companies deal with regulatory moves on menthol and e-cigarettes but also raises questions about Altria's ambitions in heated tobacco, analysts said.

Analysts: Papa John's should focus on franchisees, deals after buyout bid fades

The struggling pizza chain needs to reassure franchisees hit by declining sales that management can turn the business around, analysts said.

Consumer Edge is a weekly collection of critical developments across the automotive; retail; and food, beverage, and tobacco industries that draws on exclusive analysis and value-added content from the Consumer News team at S&P Global Market Intelligence.