Unilever in Slash Mode - Twenty-Thousand Jobs to Go

03 August 2007

LONDON: Unilever ceo Patrick Cescau yesterday promised a "radical shakeup" of a business whose profits growth has failed to satisfy the troglodytes of Wall Street and London EC2.

In human terms, the investor-appeasing move means the loss of 20,000 jobs worldwide over the next four years. It will also trigger the sale of Unilever's US laundry products business - news likely to be hailed in the environs of Cincinnati as manna from heaven.

But it's unlikely Procter & Gamble will be a bidder for brands such as All, Whisk and Snuggle at the upcoming auction - if only for antitrust reasons.

Meantime, Cescau, rhetoric aflame, promised that his slash 'n' burn programme will return Unilever to "pre-eminence" in the world of fast-moving consumer goods. "I'm going to go to the next step because I believe we are ready for it," he said.

The chosen hit-man (or "agent of change", as Cescau put it) is James Lawrence, a former General Mills executive and now Unilever cfo.

The money trogs liked what they heard, marking-up Unilever's shares by 3.4% at Thursday's close. Gloated Panmure Gordon analyst Graham Jones: "They are starting to sort the business out."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff