Food and Drink

U.K. frets over biscuit brand takeover

Stephen Beard Sep 27, 2010
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Food and Drink

U.K. frets over biscuit brand takeover

Stephen Beard Sep 27, 2010
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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Unilever said today it’s buying the U.S.
based Alberto Culver Company for $3.7 billion, giving Unilever giant shampoo brands VO5 and TRESemme.

But in Britain, the news causing the biggest
reaction is a possible takeover of United Biscuits. A Chinese company is reportedly going after the beloved food brand and that’s making some people unhappy.

From London, here’s Marketplace’s Stephen Beard.


STEPHEN BEARD: At $3 billion, it wouldn’t be the largest foreign takeover of a British company. But reports that Bright Food of China wants to buy United Biscuits has struck a raw nerve. United makes some of the U.K.’s most popular cookies — like Jaffa Cakes and McVitie’s digestives. There’s now talk that the U.K. government might step in and block the takeover.

That really would be bizarre, says fund manager Justin Urquhart Stewart.

JUSTIN URQUHART STEWART: It is rather strange that we would finally turn around at the eleventh hour and say, “We must stop Johnny Foreigner buying our assets,” because actually we’ve been living on not only people buying our assets, we’ve been buying their assets.

He says the U.K. happily sold off its car industry to foreigners. Many of its airports, seaports, power and water companies are now foreign owned too. But the humble cookie seems to be a different matter, a national treasure that must be protected.

Urquhart Stewart says banning the takeover would be bad for business and illogical. United Biscuits is currently owned by private equity firms based abroad.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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