Kraft Heinz/Unilever shows rise of invisible stakeholder

Author: Tom Young | Published: 22 Feb 2017

Kraft Heinz’s aborted bid for British consumer products company Unilever has prompted speculation over its U-turn and focused attention on the rise of invisible stakeholders.

The company, backed by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G, abandoned its £115 billion ($143 billion) bid on February 19, citing Unilever’s reluctance to pursue the transaction as the reason for its step down.

Less reported though were the practical difficulties of executing the deal. Unilever is dual-listed in London and Rotterdam and conducting a hostile bid with a dual-listed target is considered almost impossible.

On top of that, the put-up or shut-up provision under the UK’s takeover rules could also have contributed to its failure. Under the rules, a target can ask the UK’s Takeover Panel to impose a deadline to clarify the bidder’s intentions. If it puts up, it makes a firm offer within 28 days, and if it shuts up it must...