Unilever has fired 230 of its 500-strong Chinese marketing team for breaching its ethical business guidelines.

The Anglo-Dutch colossus reportedly took the drastic step after an investigation uncovered unacceptable dealings with wholesalers and agents. Few other details have emerged, though it is thought the probe was partly looking into the counterfeiting of products.

Chairman Niall FitzGerald insisted the sackings were necessary to uphold Unilever's dedication to ethical practice.

The consumer goods colossus has a number of joint ventures in China – some involving former subsidiaries of Lever Brothers that were seized after the communists came to power. It hopes to float one of its businesses by 2005, retaining 60% to 65% of the stock.

Data sourced from: Telegraph.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff