Anglo-Dutch foods and household products titan Unilever has revealed it intends to integrate a number of its major consumer businesses, starting immediately in Holland where it has set Q2 2005 as the target completion date.
The group, second only to Procter & Gamble in the global advertising stakes, also signalled that the policy may be extended to the UK and elsewhere in the world.
Said a spokesman: "We are looking at it country by country. The Netherlands [already] operates much more as one company than the UK does, and the UK companies are much bigger than those in the Netherlands."
The three Dutch units undergoing fusion are Unilever Bestfoods, IgloMora (frozen foods and ice cream) and Lever Faberge. They will meld into a single operating unit, Unilever Nederland, based in Rotterdam.
The news will trigger much disquiet within their UK counterparts -- Lever Faberge, Unilever Bestfoods and Birds Eye Walls -- where "several thousand" people are employed, according to the spokesman. He added: "There will be some jobs that would go but it is too early to say which ones."
Unilever claims the integration programme is part of its simplification strategy, designed to cut costs. It also fits with the group's much hyped five-year plan to slash its 1,600-strong brand portfolio to just four hundred lines.
But many inside the company believe appeasement of Wall Street and the City of London -- where there is loudly voiced disquiet at the group's lacklustre performance -- is the real reason underlying the merger moves.
Data sourced from: Telegraph.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff