11 august 2020

Unifying Unilever eyes proposed Dutch tax law change

Unilever has cautioned against a proposal to change tax law in the Netherlands could derail the FMCG giant's plan to change its legal structure.

The Knorr and Magnum maker wants to unify its legal structure under a single entity headquartered in London.

Since Unilever's formation in 1930, the company has been owned through two separately listed companies, a Dutch NV and a UK plc. The company plans to create one class of shares. Shareholder meetings on the plans are set for September and October.

In documentation released, Unilever said a member of the Dutch Green Party had tabled a bill that would look to impose a tax on certain transactions.

The bill would need to pass the Netherlands' two legislative houses, while Unilever said it had legal advice the measures, if enacted and applied to the company's unification plans, would mean the Dutch government "would be in manifest breach" of certain international regulations.

Nevertheless, Unilever has estimated the financial impact the bill could have should the proposal become law and is administered on its unification plan.

"If the bill were enacted in its present form and applied to unification, the [NV and plc] boards believe that proceeding with unification, if it resulted in an exit tax charge of some €11bn ($12.96bn), would not be in the best interests of Unilever, its shareholders and other stakeholders as a whole," Unilever said.

"The bill may be subject to amendment during the parliamentary process and it is not clear when, or indeed if at all, the bill may be enacted, or in what form. Accordingly, the ultimate effect of the bill on the proposed unification is not clear at present.

"The boards intend to proceed with their proposals provided that unification, in the boards' view, remains in the best interests of Unilever, its shareholders and other stakeholders as a whole. As the situation develops, the boards will continue to assess all options available and will update shareholders as appropriate."

Under the plans, Unilever's food and refreshments division, which generates 40% of its turnover, will remain headquartered in Rotterdam, along with its research and development unit. The home care, and beauty and personal care business divisions, will continue to be located in the UK.

A shareholder vote on the unification for Unilever NV investors is set for 21 September. Meetings for Unilever plc shareholders will take place on 12 October. Unilever says its unification is expected to be completed over the weekend of 21 and 22 November, meaning that the expected last day of trading in Unilever NV shares would be 20 November.


11 august 2020

Thai Union buys control of Russian seafood firm DPR

Thai Union Group has moved to acquire a majority position in the Russian venture behind DPR Group, the seafood business that is home to brands including Maguro and Rybar.

The Thailand-based seafood giant has taken its stake in TUMD, which owns three Russian companies known collectively as DPR, from 45% to 90%. Financial terms were not disclosed.

In a statement made alongside Thai Union's first-half financial results, the company described DPR as a "retail-focused fish and seafood business" and "Russia's number one canned tuna producer". The brands in DPR's portfolio include Maguro, Captain of Tastes and Rybar.

Thai Union said it is "expecting to drive and accelerate DPR's business strategy" and increase "synergy with Thai Union as a supplier".

The company added DPR's "manufacturing and distribution platform offers significant opportunities for further growth and development in key European and emerging markets".


5 august 2020

Japan's Meiji Holdings to set up new unit in China

Meiji Holdings has set up another unit in China, a priority market for a Japanese group looking to grow overseas.

The company has established a production and sales arm in the south-eastern city of Guangzhou. The new unit will make and market milk, yogurt and confectionery. Production is set to start in Meiji's 2024 fiscal year.

Meiji has three businesses in China. One focuses on milk and yogurt, another on ice cream and a third on confectionery. Each business is "performing well", Meiji said in a statement to announce the investment in Guangzhou.

The group already has a dairy production sites in China, one 800 miles further north in Suzhou, a city close to Shanghai. Another, in Tianjin in the north-east of the country, is scheduled to start production in the second half of the company's 2023 fiscal year.

In April, Meiji acquired a 25% stake in AustAsia Investment Holdings for $254.4m. AustAsia operates dairy farms in China and which supplies the Japanese group's milk and yogurt businesses in the country.


5 august 2020

General Mills invests in frozen-food plant

General Mills, the US food giant, is investing in a frozen-food facility manufacturing products for Totino's, a brand that has seen rising demand in recent months.

The company said the plant in Wellston in Ohio specialises in making pizza snacks for its Totino's brand.

Without specifying the amount to be invested, General Mills said it would spend "millions" to improve operations at the site for the facility "to be more productive and efficient, increasing overall capacity".

The investment will add 12 jobs at the factory, the company confirmed to just-food, with the site set to employ almost 900 staff.


5 august 2020

New Zealand's Sanford plans to close fish processing plant

New Zealand seafood business Sanford plans to close its fish processing facility in the coastal city of Tauranga partly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposed decision, which could see 65 of the 77 staff lose their jobs, was put down to two factors: "The impact of Covid-19 has meant Sanford is processing less fish caught by other companies, which has seen processing volumes for its North Island sites drop significantly; and secondly, the buildings at the plant do not meet new seismic strength requirements." 

Sanford said in a statement it is consulting with workers to minimise the number who are affected by the decision.

Chief executive Volker Kuntzsch said: "The intention is for some operations in Tauranga to continue. We would continue to unload seafood at the Tauranga site under the proposed arrangements and we plan to retain a number of staff in that area. We are entering a period of consultation with our team and we will not know the final configurations until that process is complete. 

"Tauranga has been an important base of operations for Sanford and we have enjoyed being part of the community there. It is very unfortunate that circumstances have pushed us down this path." 

Chief operating officer Clement Chia added that the business would have no choice but to close the plant even if volumes returned to pre-crisis levels because of the seismic issue. 

"Until very recently we had been planning a strong future for our Tauranga team," Chia said. "We had installed a second processing line at the end of last year, but in 2020 our fish processing arrangements were not only hit by the impact of Covid-19 but we received the results of engineering reports showing that the site was not viable in the long term. We would have needed to rebuild or move out within three years. The pandemic has unfortunately moved up that timeline." 

Sanford said it has 11 facilities spread across New Zealand and all have completed seismic surveys following the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes. Most of them will "require some remedial work" but the company has no plans to close any other sites.

However, CEO Kuntzsch added that in the longer term, Sanford plans to replace its plant in Auckland "with a brand new facility to add further capability to widen the range of its seafood offerings". 


5 august 2020

Aryzta CFO announces departure in midst of takeover interest

Bakery giant Aryzta, which last month revealed it was the subject of "unsolicited interest" from unnamed parties to acquire the company, has announced the departure of finance chief Frederic Pflanz.

However, Pflanz will remain with the Swiss-Irish firm until December, when he will step down, meaning he will be around for the rescheduled extraordinary meeting in September called by its largest shareholders – Cobas Asset Management and Veraison Capital – as they press for a shake-up of the company, namely a simplified business model and strategy. 

The meeting was originally slated for mid-August but was put back last month to the 16 September, a move the investors described as a "delaying tactic".

Pflanz, who is approaching his third anniversary as CFO of Aryzta, has "accepted a role in an unrelated business", the Zurich-listed firm said in a statement.

He said: "I remain fully committed to delivering the maximum value I can to Aryzta in my remaining time in the role as businesses all over the world, including Aryzta, operate in a very challenging environment and we continue to focus on controlling cost and maintaining a strong liquidity position."

CEO Kevin Toland added: "We are naturally disappointed to see Frederic leave and we recognise his substantial positive impact on Aryzta generally and to the finance function specifically. Both as CFO and as a valued colleague, Frederic has contributed significantly to the overall business. We wish Frederic and his family well in the next chapter of his career."


3 august 2020

Tyson Foods names Dean Banks as successor to CEO Noel White

Tyson Foods has named Dean Banks as the successor to chief executive Noel White, who will remain with the US meat giant in a new capacity.

Banks will become CEO from 3 October, while White will fill a new role as executive vice chairman of the board, Tyson have confirmed, as it also reported a 0.6% increase in nine-month sales to $31.7bn.

The appointment of Banks is "part of the board's deliberate, long-term succession planning", Tyson said. He joined the business as a director in 2017 and went on to become a divisional president last year.

Board chairman John Tyson said: "The board and I are truly excited about the breadth and depth of capabilities of Dean and the entire executive leadership team, and we look forward to the energy and vision they will bring in leading Tyson Foods into the future."

White has been with Tyson for 37 years and has filled the CEO seat for the past two.

"He has an unparalleled knowledge of the protein industry and our business, and he has earned the trust and admiration of our team members and our company leaders, many of whom he has mentored," chairman Tyson added.


24 july 2020

Good Catch owner Gathered Foods hires ex-Coke exec Christine Mei as CEO

Gathered Foods, the US-based owner of the Good Catch plant-based seafood brand, has appointed a CEO in the shape of Christine Mei.

She joins with more than 30 years of executive experience at major businesses including Coca-Cola, Nike and Procter & Gamble.

Most recently, Mei has been an investor and mentor for SKU, a CPG accelerator based in Austin, Texas, where she advised startup companies. She replaces Gathered Foods co-founder Chris Kerr as CEO.

She said: "I'm so energised about the tremendous potential for the Good Catch brand. In fact, the future of the entire plant-based food industry is on a trajectory of positive disruption.

"It's both humbling and exhilarating to be able to amplify social impact through purposeful innovation in the plant-based seafood space. I'm really looking forward to collaborating with co-founders Chris Kerr, Chad and Derek Sarno to set Good Catch onto its next curve of growth."

Kerr will remain actively involved in the business in his role as executive chairperson.

He said: "At Gathered Foods, we thrive on collaboration and bringing together creative minds to join our mission to make a difference. We're beyond excited to have been able to attract someone like Christine to lead our enterprise. She brings such a wealth of experience in the CPG space, with a focus on catapulting brands to their full potential."