Unilever returns to Cuba in joint venture with state
HAVANA | BY MARC FRANK
Global consumer products company Unilever Plc (UNc.AS)(ULVR.L) will
return to Cuba after a several-year absence, agreeing on Monday to build
a $35 million soap and toothpaste factory in Cuba’s special development
zone at the port of Mariel west of Havana.
The Dutch-British company left Cuba in 2012 in a dispute over who would
have the controlling interest in their joint venture. Now Unilever NV
will have a majority 60 percent stake compared to 40 percent for the
Cuban state company Intersuchel S.A.
At the time of the dispute, Cuba’s Communist government preferred the
state hold a majority stake in joint ventures with foreign companies,
but Cuba has become more flexible since opening the Chinese-style Mariel
Special Development Zone two years ago.
The factory, due to open by 2018, will make products such as Sedal
shampoo, Rexona deodorant, Omo detergent, Lux soap and Close-Up
toothpaste, the company said in statement.
The signing ceremony took place during a visit to Cuba by Dutch Foreign
Trade Minister Lilianne Ploumen at the head of a delegation including
some 60 businesses.
The Netherlands and other European countries have expressed increased
interest in the Caribbean island since Cuba reached detente with the
United States just over a year ago.
Ploumen told reporters she hoped Unilever would be the first of several
Dutch companies to set up shop in Cuba.
Unilever is the ninth and best-known firm to receive approval to operate
at the Mariel zone, which has a modern container port.
The company was one of the first to establish a venture in Cuba once
Communist authorities allowed some Western investment in the 1990s after
the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s former benefactor.
In the past two years Cuba has intensified its search for foreign
investment with the Mariel zone and a 2014 law that offers tax breaks
and other incentives.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Bernard Orr)
Source: Unilever returns to Cuba in joint venture with state | Reuters –