Unilever has announced the establishment of Univest, a new pension asset pooling vehicle which gives the opportunity to leverage the strengths of Unilever and its national-based pension funds.
The Univest structure is also expected to reduce risk and enhance net return potential.
Univest will provide a diversified external manager facility for Unilever pension plans worldwide. Key support for the initiative has come from Unilever's two largest national funds in the Netherlands and the UK. The respective Foundation and Trustee boards of these funds have decided to place more than €1 billion each into this new vehicle. As and when other Unilever funds invest, it is anticipated that Univest is likely to hold some €3-5 billion overall.
Philip Lambert, Head of Unilever Corporate Pensions and Chairman of the investment committee said, "This initiative fits very well with the One Unilever programme that the company has been pursuing to make us as simple and efficient a business as possible. We expect Univest to generate significant benefit for Unilever and its pension funds. We also expect Univest to improve the consistency in quality of asset management, lower overall risk and allow us to better leverage our economies of scale."
Local Unilever pension funds retain full ownership of their assets invested in Univest, through being unit holders in a series of multi-manager regional equity sub-funds with best-in-class managers. All the sub-funds are ring-fenced from one another and enable each individual Unilever pension fund to continue to define its own geographical investment strategy.
The pooling vehicle is a Fonds Commun de Placement (FCP), established in Luxembourg and will be run by management company, Northern Trust Luxembourg Management Company S.A.
The Management Company will manage the vehicle with critical input from the Univest Investment Committee, which brings together the investment expertise from across Unilever and the participating pension funds.
Considerable groundwork for this initiative was done by a consortium including Goldman Sachs, Mercer Investment Consulting and Northern Trust, which, together with critical support from Unilever's largest individual funds was key to the successful completion of the project.
Unilever, one of the world's largest consumer products companies, adds vitality to life by meeting the everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care. With a portfolio of great brands that make people feel good, look good and get more out of life, 150 million consumers around the world choose Unilever products everyday, including icons such as Knorr, Hellmann's, Flora, Dove, Lynx, Persil, Marmite and Pot Noodle.
Unilever has around 223,000 employees in approaching 100 countries and generated annual sales of €42 billion in 2004. For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit www.unilever.com.