HR & Management
Unilever CFO resignation sparks expectations of investment opportunities or shift in senior staff
3 min read
20 May 2015
The finance chief at Unilever, Jean-Marc Huët, is set to resign after five years in the job. Analysts believe that his departure is the beginning of a corporate shake-up.
CEO Paul Polman said that the first half of 2014 was “challenging” as Unilever experienced a slowdown in emerging countries. The company highlighted macroeconomic pressures as weighing on consumer spending, particularly in Asia.
Despite the set-back, Huët has been credited as a finance director who has produced consistent results within Unilever.
Cedric Besnard, an analyst at Barclays, suggested that Huët was “well-respected” by investors as he had been involved in the “improvement in Unilever’s cost culture”. Due to this, MainFirst analyst Alain Oberhuber claimed that many had been surprised by his decision.
No reasons have so far been given about Huët’s decision, but the CFO suggested he had “achieved” his objective. “I have had an excellent and very rewarding period of time at Unilever and fully achieved what I set out to do when I joined the organisation in 2010,” Huët said.
In the Financial Times, it was noted that Huët’s departure could see a change in senior staff throughout the firm. Analysts expect company chairman Michael Treschow to announce his resignation in 2016.
It was also suggested that Polman had “little intention of relinquishing the post he has held since 2009”, and that Huët’s ambition was one of the reasons he is choosing to leave Unilever.
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Analysts have speculated that Huët’s next position could be within Heineken, as he joined the board in 2014 as a non-executive director.
After the announcement, Unilever’s share price went up by 1.4 per cent.
A spokeswoman for Unilever explained: “Succession planning is always under way and ongoing for key positions as you’d expect.”
The role of CFO will be passed on to Graeme Pikethly, the company’s current executive vice president, at the end of September.
In a statement, Hëet said he would only leave after “a seamless transition”, and that he would spend “some time deciding what new opportunities to pursue.”
“We believe the investment community will regret seeing him leave,” said ING analyst Marco Gulpers. However, he suggested there was merit in hiring Pitkethly, whose past positions have involved mergers and acquisitions
Gulpers noted that he is “clearly” a person the investment community needs to get to know.