CVC Capital Partners is emerging as the leading bidder for tea assets owned by Unilever Plc, in what will be one of the year’s biggest carveouts by a European company, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The buyout firm is in advanced talks on a deal for the Unilever unit, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Rival private equity bidder Advent International is also still in the running, and Unilever’s board hasn’t yet signed off on the transaction, according to the people.
An agreement could be announced in the coming days, the people said. The tea business could be valued at around $5 billion in a sale, Bloomberg News reported previously.
A spokesperson for Unilever declined to comment, while representatives for CVC and Advent didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Unilever has been seeking to reshape its portfolio as consumers’ tastes change. Demand for tea has suffered in recent years amid a shift to flavorful herbal alternatives and artisan coffee. The company said in January 2020 that it was starting a strategic review of its tea business, which includes the Lipton and PG Tips brands, that could result in a partial or full sale.
It later moved to scale back the scope of the tea sale and retain operations in emerging markets. The proposed disposal would not include Unilever’s tea units in India and Indonesia or its partnerships in the ready-to-drink tea market, such as its stake in a joint venture with PepsiCo Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said in July.