Unilever Plc (UL) announced that its CEO Paul Polman was planning to retire, effective January 1, and that Alan Jope, president of the beauty and personal care division, would succeed him. Polman, who served as CEO for 10 years, will stay on for the first half of 2019 to ensure a smooth transition and will leave in July. The company is yet to name a replacement for Jope.
Polman is credited with bringing about meaningful change at Unilever that helped the company gain a significant competitive edge and drive good shareholder returns. Under Polman, Unilever had fought off a takeover attempt by Kraft-Heinz last year.
However, Polman’s plan to shift the company’s headquarters from the UK to the Netherlands in an attempt to simplify its structure met with strong objections from investors and the idea was dropped. Now his successor Alan Jope will have the task of dealing with the impacts of Brexit.
Meanwhile, Unilever is said to be in talks with GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) to buy its nutrition business, which includes the malted drink brand Horlicks. Horlicks enjoys a strong position in India which gives it significant value.
Like several other companies, Unilever is making changes to its portfolio in order to tackle shifts in consumer preferences and heavy competition. The company is focusing on its profitable businesses and offloading its weaker units in order to drive growth. The purchase of Horlicks could strengthen Unilever’s presence in India, which is seen as a lucrative market by many Western companies who are increasing their investments in the country.
Over the past three months, Unilever’s shares have dropped over 5%. As of 12:30 pm ET, the stock was down 0.75%.