Almost exactly 48 hours after Kraft Heinz’s blockbuster $143 billion bid for Unilever went public, the company changed its mind. Yesterday, Kraft Heinz issued a statement that it “has amicably agreed to withdraw its proposal for a combination of the two companies.”
Unilever had rebuffed the offer, and after weekend crisis talks among Heinz’s main shareholders, including Warren Buffett, the group decided that a public battle for control of its Anglo-Dutch rival wasn’t worth it after all (paywall).
The episode sent Unilever’s shares on a wild ride.
On Friday, the company’s London-listed shares jumped by 13%, which was worth a whopping $16 billion in market capitalization. Today, the takeover bid’s withdrawal pushed Unilever’s shares down sharply, wiping off nearly $9 billion in value at the time of writing.
Unilever’s shares remain about 5% higher than they were when Kraft’s bid was announced. Although this particular merger is off, investors sense that big food groups are in a dealmaking mood, and Unilever may soon entertain offers for some or all of its assets from another suitor.