Unilever is to sell its Spreads business, including Becel, Flora and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, to global investment firm KKR for €6.825 billion on a cash-free, debt-free basis.

The investment is being funded by both the European and North American private equity funds of KKR, and the offer is subject to certain regulatory approvals and employee consultation in certain jurisdictions.

The deal is expected to be completed mid-2018, with Unilever intending to return the net cash realised to shareholders, unless more value-creating acquisition alternatives arise.

The Spreads business operates across 66 countries around the world and in 2016, it had a turnover of €3,032 million, EBITDA (before any carveout adjustments under new ownership) of €680 million, and assets of €1,108 million.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, commented: “The announcement today marks a further step in reshaping and sharpening our portfolio for long term growth. The consideration recognises the market leading brands and the improved momentum we have achieved.

“I am confident that under KKR’s ownership, the Spreads business with its iconic brands will be able to fulfil its full potential as well as societal responsibilities.”

Nicolas Liabeuf, CEO of Spreads, who will continue to lead the business, added: “There is a positive momentum in the performance of the Spreads business and we are excited about continuing this journey with KKR. We are confident that our business and the entrepreneurial spirit of our people will thrive further under new ownership.”

Johannes Huth, head of KKR EMEA, stated: “The strength of the portfolio of consumer brands in Spreads provides a firm foundation for future growth.

“We look forward to deploying our global network and operational expertise to support the business’s growth ambitions, while continuing to follow Unilever’s responsible sourcing policies, including working towards the goal of sourcing 100 per cent sustainable palm oil by 2019.”

According to Unilever’s statement, the deal constitutes a class 2 transaction for the purposes of the UK Listing Rules.