Company that makes PG Tips sold for £3.8billion

Company that makes PG Tips and Lipton Tea is sold to European private equity firm for £3.8billion

  • Unilever is selling tea division that makes PG Tips and Lipton for £3.8billion 
  • FTSE 100 consumer goods giant to sell Lipton and PG Tips to private equity firm
  • The tea operation runs 34 brands and generated £1.7billion of revenues in 2020

Unilever is selling its tea division that makes beloved British brands PG Tips and Lipton to a private equity firm for £3.8billion.

The FTSE 100 consumer goods giant is selling off the unit that makes Lipton and PG Tips, which it has owned since the 1930s and 1980s respectively, to European buyout group CVC Capital Partners.

The tea operation, known as Ekaterra, runs 34 brands and generated £1.7billion of revenues in 2020, Unilever said.

It comes almost two years after Unilever started the process of reviewing and spinning off the operation, which is the world’s largest tea manufacturer.

Unilever is selling its tea division that makes beloved British brands PG Tips and Lipton to a private equity firm for £3.8billion 

PG Tips was first introduced to tea lovers in Britain way back in the 1930s – and its popularity had never waned.

Launched in the UK under the name Pre-Gestee – a variant of the original name ‘Digestive Tea’ – it adopted the name PG and later Tips during a 1950s rebrand.

The ‘Tips’ was added in reference to the fact that just the tips – the top two leaves and bud – of the tea plants are used in the blend.  

PG Tips began using chimpanzees dressed in human clothes in the fashion of chimpanzees’ tea party in their TV adverts in 1956.

Known as the Tipps Family, their voices were often provided by celebrities, such as Peter Sellers and Bob Monkhouse – and by 1958 PG Tips became a leader in the tea market. 

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to complete in the second half of 2022.

The deal will not include Unilever’s tea business in India, Nepal and Indonesia, the consumer group added.

Unilever’s chief executive officer Alan Jope hailed the move as ‘further progress’ as it continues to reshape its consumer portfolio.

He said: ‘The evolution of our portfolio into higher growth spaces is an important part of our growth strategy for Unilever. Our decision to sell Ekaterra demonstrates further progress in delivering against our plans.

‘We look forward to seeing Ekaterra, with its strong brands and global footprint, prosper under CVC’s ownership.’

Pev Hooper, managing partner at CVC Capital Partners, said: ‘Ekaterra is a great business, built on strong foundations of leading brands and a purpose-driven approach to its products, people and communities.

‘Ekaterra is well positioned in an attractive market to accelerate its future growth, and to lead the category’s sustainable development.

‘We look forward to working with the team to realise Ekaterra’s full potential.’

John Davison, chief executive officer of Ekaterra, said: ‘Ekaterra is a strong business with positive momentum and has an exciting future ahead under the new ownership of CVC.

‘We look forward to the next stage of our journey as the world’s leading tea business.’  

It is not the first time Unilever has sold unwanted assets to private equity. Under former boss Paul Polman, it sold its margarine and spreads business to KKR for £6billion. 

Private equity firms have embarked on a huge spending spree in the UK in the past 18 months, snapping up British companies across the board – and triggering fears for jobs. 

High profile deals include the sale of Morrisons to Clayton Dubilier & Rice and Asda to the billionaire Issa brothers and TDR Capital. 

The FTSE 100 consumer goods giant is selling off the unit that makes Lipton and PG Tips, which it has owned since the 1930s and 1980s respectively, to European buyout group CVC Capital Partners

CVC is well known for investing in recognisable brands. Its holdings include Formula One and Swiss watchmaker Breitling. 

Jope, 58, warned last month that Unilever was struggling with rising prices, supply issues and ongoing coronavirus lockdowns. 

Highlighting ‘unprecedented cost inflation’, the FTSE100 chief executive yesterday said ‘the operating environment across our markets worldwide remains volatile’. 

Shares in Unilever, which sells Dove soap, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Hellmann’s mayonnaise, have shed more than 14 per cent this year and yesterday fell another 0.8 per cent, or 32.5p, to 3823p. 

Fears are that the languishing share price could draw attention from activist investors like Elliott and Cevian. 

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