Unilever’s £50bn health cheque

WHEN UNILEVER bought Bestfoods for $20.3bn at the turn of the millennium, it was one of the largest cash acquisitions ever. After two failed bids, the British consumer-goods giant dug up an extra $2bn to sweeten the deal. It divested 700 of its brands in the year that followed but replenished its larder with Bestfoods’ Knorr soup and Hellman’s mayonnaise. Now, in pursuit of another mega merger that could be four times as big, Unilever has been prepared to dispose of the larder entirely.

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Unilever’s new target has been the consumer-health unit of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a

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