June 15, 2017 / 1:15 PM / 2 months ago

Unilever to start auction of spreads business in the autumn

The company logo for Unilever is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 17, 2017.Brendan McDermid

LONDON (Reuters) - Unilever (ULVR.L)(UNc.AS) plans to kick off the auction for its margarine and spreads business this autumn, its chief financial officer said on Thursday.

The sale of the shrinking business was first announced in April as part of an overhaul of sparked by February's surprise takeover approach by Kraft-Heinz (KHC.O).

"We expect to run this in the autumn of this year, and we hope to have a view on agreeing a binding deal by the end of the year or perhaps shortly after that," CFO Graeme Pitkethly said at a conference hosted by Deutsche Bank on Thursday.

"If we are unable to achieve sufficient value in an outright sale, we do plan to demerge this business, and that might take a little bit longer."

Unilever is working with Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) on the sale, sources have told Reuters, estimating that the asset could fetch about 6 billion pounds.

Pitkethly added that the review of Unilever's structure, also announced in April, would be completed by the end of the year. He said the review was undertaken with a view to unifying the structure of the company, which has headquarters in both Britain and the Netherlands.

Such a move would provide greater strategic flexibility for potential demergers, such as the spreads business, or for a more transformative acquisition should that become desirable, Pitkethly said.

Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by David Goodman

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