Jan 20, 2022 - Economy

Unilever abandons attempt to buy GSK's consumer unit

A Unilever logo on a building

Photo: Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Unilever said it's abandoned its $68 billion pursuit of GlaxoSmithKline's consumer unit, which includes Advil painkillers and Sensodyne toothpaste.

Why it matters: This is a jarring U-turn from Unilever's position of just a few days ago, when it said it was undeterred by GSK's rejection of three takeover offers, and raises. One possibility is that Unilever thinks it's calling GSK's bluff, or that it has an alternate acquisition target in mind.

Look ahead: GSK continues to move forward with plans to list the consumer unit, which is 32% owned by Pfizer, later this year.

The bottom line: Unilever must convince investors that it's not spinning its strategic wheels, as it tries to move deeper into health and beauty products and away from lower-margin items like food. The GSK bid suggested that CEO Alan Jope favored sudden, transformative change. Until he didn't.

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