The Hague — On Thursday, Dutch-British consumer products giant Unilever announced the surprise sale of its under-performing margarine division, seeking to soothe investor jitters after spurning a takeover bid by US rival Kraft Heinz. The Rotterdam-based group said it is also planning to boost dividends in 2017 by 12%, and will launch a shares buyback of some €5bn by the end of the year. "After a long history in Unilever, we have decided that the future of the spreads business now lies outside the group," CEO Paul Polman said in a statement. The move came amid a company review launched in the wake of an out-of-the-blue takeover bid in February by US food and beverage giant Kraft Heinz. "The Kraft Heinz bid was a massive wake-up call. Unilever realised it needed to do more for shareholders, but it also has to improve margins," said analyst Neil Wilson at EXT Capital. One poll showed that only half the company’s shareholders had agreed with Polman’s flat-out refusal to even consider Kr...

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