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GlaxoSmithKline Plc rejected an unsolicited takeover offer from Unilever Plc for its consumer goods unit. Image Credit: Reuters

London: GlaxoSmithKline Plc rejected an unsolicited takeover offer from Unilever Plc for its consumer goods unit that valued the business at about 50 billion pounds ($68.4 billion), the Times reported on Saturday, without saying how it obtained the information.

Unilever made the offer for Glaxo’s household brands unit in late 2021 but Glaxo’s board and Pfizer Inc., which owns a minority stake in the business, rejected the bid as too low, the newspaper said.

Glaxo CEO Emma Walmsley is under pressure from investors including activist fund Elliott Investment Management, to be more open to a possible sale of the consumer division. The company hired former Tesco Plc chief executive Dave Lewis in December to lead a spin-off and listing of its consumer goods arm this year. The unit, which owns brands including Advil painkillers and Sensodyne toothpaste, will seek a London Stock Exchange listing.

Glaxo previously had interest from Advent International, CVC Capital Partners and KKR & Co. for the business, even as it had been preparing for the listing last fall.

Unilever Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope is also under pressure from some investors over the company’s poor performance of late. Terry Smith, the founder of Fundsmith LLP and one of Unilever’s top 15 shareholders, criticized the maker of Magnum ice-cream and Dove soap this week in his annual letter to investors, saying it has “lost the plot” with a focus on publicly displaying sustainability credentials at the expense of focusing on the business.

Jope has continued the sustainability drive that was championed by former CEO Paul Polman. Under the two chiefs, Unilever has also reshaped its portfolio, selling slower-growing businesses such as its spreads unit and, more recently, its tea business, while acquiring Glaxo’s consumer operation in India that include the Horlicks brand.

Despite these moves, the shares have fallen 10% over the past 12 months, which compares with a 20% gain for rival Nestle, where CEO Mark Schneider has taken more aggressive steps to revitalize the portfolio.