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Unilever focuses on soap in West Africa

By Katie Bird , 16-Dec-2008

Unilever has completed the purchase of a soap business and the sale of its palm oil and edible oil interests in the Ivory Coast.

The Anglo-Dutch giant has purchased Cosmivoire from parent company SIFCA, an Ivorian agro-industry group.

West African presence

Although Cosmivoire is an Ivorian business it has a presence throughout the region and the company hopes the purchase will help expansion across Francophone Africa.

At the same time as purchasing the soap business, Unilever is selling its edible oil business and its interests in two local palm oil plantations.

In fact, it is SIFCA, along with two Singapore-based companies, who have taken on the edible oil and palm oil interests.

“This deal is absolutely in line with Unilever’s strategy. It will allow us to focus our future efforts and investments in Francophone West Africa on two of Unilever’s core categories, skin cleansing and laundry,” said Diego Bevilacqua, Unilever’s group vice president for Africa, Middle East and Turkey.

“At the same time we are pleased to have been able to bring together partners for whom the palm oil plantations and oils business constitute the core of their business, and will being value to those categories in the Ivory Coast,” he added.

Company-wide restructuring

It is not just Unilever’s Africa, Middle East and Turkey unit that is undergoing restructuring; significant changes are also underway within the European and North American business units.

The company has recently chosen six sites around the world that will become research and development centres.

Two sites in the UK (Colworth and Wirral) are joined by one in Vlaardingen (Netherlands), Trumball (US), Bangalore (India) and Shanghai (China). By organising R&D in this way, Unilever hopes it will be able to focus on fewer and bigger innovations, reduce overlap in activities between sites and increase the speed and impact of innovations.

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