Unilever buys big share in Chinese firm

AFP and Bloomberg, THE HAGUE, The Netherlands

Mon, Mar 10, 2014 - Page 14

Dutch food and cosmetics giant Unilever Plc yesterday said it has bought a majority stake in Chinese water-purification company Qinyuan Group Co Ltd (沁園), in its biggest Chinese investment in a decade.

“We are delighted to be making this strategic investment — a majority stake in Qinyuan — our biggest acquisition in China for more than 10 years,” Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said in a statement.

Rotterdam-based Unilever, which last year reported a net profit of 4.84 billion euros (US$6.71 billion), declined to put an amount on the deal or disclose the size of its stake.

Qinyuan last year made sales of almost 140 million euros in China’s rapidly expanding water-purification market, which has grown more than 20 percent a year over the last three years, Unilever said.

“This deal will more than double the size of our water-purification business and will bring together complementary technology ... all under the Unilever umbrella,” Polman said.

Founded in 1930, Unilever employs about 174,000 people worldwide and has some of the world’s best-known brands like Knorr, Omo, Lipton and Magnum ice cream in its portfolio.

Qinyuan is a high-tech company that makes water purifiers, drinking-water equipment and water-treatment membranes. The firm has about 2,500 employees and was founded in 1998.

Meanwhile, Polman got a £431,775 (US$722,200) top-up to his bonus payment last year, in large part for his work leading the company’s sustainability plan.

After collecting a bonus of £1.15 million, or 95 percent of his target, Polman got an additional 37.5 percent for progress on the company’s sustainable-living plan, according to Unilever’s annual report.

The plan, known as the USLP, includes targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste.

Unilever chief financial officer Jean-Marc Huet got a 10 percent addition to his bonus, taking the total to £746,130.

Polman’s total compensation for last year was 7.96 million euros, up 4.2 percent over 2012, the annual report showed. That includes 1.86 million euros in bonuses.