Exclusive-Unilever launches new bid to sell Q Tips and other brands-sources

By Abigail Summerville

(Reuters) – Unilever Plc has hired investment banks Morgan Stanley and Evercore Inc to sell a basket of non-core beauty and personal care brands that include Q-Tips and Impulse, reviving an effort it abandoned two years ago, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The revival of the sale process, which has not been previously reported, represents the first major move by Hein Schumacher, who took over as Unilever’s chief executive in July with a focus to streamline its business as it grapples with inflation.

The brand portfolio, known as Elida Beauty, also includes Caress, TIGI, Timotei, Monsavon, St. Ives, Zwitsal, Ponds, Brut, Moussel, Alberto Balsam and Matey. Elida generated about $760 million in revenue in 2022, according to the sources.

Unilever worked with Credit Suisse in 2021 to divest Elida but pulled the process later that year, after cherry-picking of the brands for sale by other consumer companies led to offers that did not meet its valuation expectations, the sources said.

Since then, Unilever has worked to make Elida an autonomous unit that could also appeal in its entirety to private equity firms, the sources added. Morgan Stanley and Evercore have now contacted several parties to gauge acquisition interest in Elida for what could be a multi-billion-dollar deal, according to the sources.

The sources requested anonymity because the matter is confidential. Unilever, Morgan Stanley and Evercore declined to comment.

The consumer goods industry has struggled with soaring costs for about two years, as everything from sunflower oil and shipping to packaging and grain has become more expensive. This has prompted Unilever, the maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, to review its portfolio of non-core assets it can sell to raise cash.

Unilever beat underlying sales growth forecasts in the second quarter after raising prices to offset the higher costs. It has also considered selling some of its U.S. ice cream brands, including Klondike and Breyers.

(Reporting by Abigail Summerville in New York; Additional reporting by Richa Naidu in London; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)