Fate of Trafford Park tea jobs shifting into focus as bids deadline looms

PG Tips
X The Business Desk

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The fate of Unilever’s tea operations at Trafford Park, Greater Manchester, could be decided soon after reports of strong interest in acquiring the division.

Unilever announced it was considering disposing of the business in January 2020, as part of a strategic review revealed by chief executive, Alan Jope.

The site makes famous brands including PG Tips and Lipton.

Now, global private equity firm Advent International has joined an Asian sovereign wealth fund as part of a £4bn bid for the business, according to Sky News.

It says Advent and Singapore’s Government Investment Corporation (GIC) are in discussions about a joint offer ahead of a bid deadline next week.

City sources claim other potential bidders include a combined offer from Cinven and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, as well as interest from Carlyle, Clayton Dubilier & Rice and KKR.

Any deal is unlikely to be concluded until next year.

Advent and GIC have previously combined together to work on a range of other deals, including a recent tie up for Swedish biotech group, Sobi.

Unilever is re-evaluating its portfolio of products and brands and, under Mr Jope, is keen to focus on consumer sectors that can offer quicker growth, such as skincare, following the group’s acquisition of Paula’s Choice earlier this year.

Fears were raised for scores of jobs within the Trafford Park tea operation when the review was announced last year.

Unite the Union, which represents 150 members at the PG Tips factory, said serious questions needed to be asked about Unilever’s future business strategy and its implications for jobs.

The union urged Unilever, which made net global profits of more than £5bn in 2019, not to “sacrifice profitable and sustainable businesses for the sake of short term returns”.

Unilever’s global tea division accounted for £2.5bn in sales in 2019. But the group said tea consumption has been hit by a switch to coffee drinking by a new generation of consumers.