10 May 2000

Wall Street analysts and investors have been told by Bestfoods that synergies from a Unilever takeover would be double those suggested by its Anglo-Dutch suitor – an admission seen by Wall Street as a softening of its stance on the unsolicited $18.4bn approach [WAMN, 04-May-00].

Bestfoods rejected Unilever's $66-per share offer last week, dismissing it as "financially inadequate … and … an inappropriate time even to think about a cash offer." But in the last two days, the US company has told analysts that a union with Unilever could produce annualised synergy benefits of about $1bn - twice the estimate made by Unilever chief executive Niall Fitzgerald. According to one investor quoted by the Wall Street Journal, "There has been a definite change in attitude in the past few days.They are saying: show us some more value."

Despite Bestfoods’ current tactic of seeking [or appearing to seek] a "white knight", most analysts still favor the chances of a Unilever takeover – albeit at a higher price than that currently on the table.

Sourced from: Financial Times