Unilever agrees to buy GSK Indian Consumer Nutrition Business, including Horlicks

Unilever announced on Monday it has agreed to buy GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nutrition business in India, including hot malted drink Horlicks.

The deal is expected to cost Unilever €3.3bn ($3.8bn) and will be paid through shares of its Indian unit Hindustan Unilever as well as cash of no more than €639m.

For Unilever, it is an opportunity to acquire a fast growing product in its largest emerging market where consumer diets are changing as incomes rise.

GSK’s Consumer nutrition business has annual sales of €550m, derived mostly from the sale of Horlicks and Boost, with more than 90% of the sales coming from India.

The deal also includes $724m for an 82% stake in GSK’s Bangladesh unit and commercial operations of GSK in 20 other predominantly Asian markets. The markets covered in the deal includes Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana and Mauritius in Africa. Others are Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, New Zealand, Maldives, Australia and Sri Lanka. Horlicks in the UK was sold to Aimia Foods, a unit of the Cott Corporation.

Unilever Food Refreshment Business Head, Nitin Paranjpe, said the Horlicks brand still has room to grow once Unilever put its marketing muscle behind it, especially in emerging markets in Africa and South-East Asia.

“Penetration levels continue to be very low,” Paranjpe said. “With the benefit of the strong brands that we have and the company we have in India, we see the opportunity for strong growth and value creation,” he added.

GSK will retain 5.7% capital of the merged Indian entity, but not for long.

“We would fully expect to be able to monetise this stake, though exactly when and how we do that would depend on market conditions, said David Redfern, GSK’s Chief Strategy Officer.

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