Unilever Returns To Cuba

Unilever NV just announced that it today obtained approval from the Cuban government for the creation of a joint venture, Unilever-Suchel S.A., in the Mariel Special Development Zone (Cuba). Unilever will invest $35 million in the venture.

Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen  had announced last week that she hoped Unilever would be returning to Cuba, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Friday, reporting further on Saturday that Ploumen said she wants ”nothing less” than for the Netherlands to “acquire a pole position” in that country.

It appears that pole position has just been secured, with the historic announcement of the new joint venture, Unilever-Suchel, S.A.  This announcement is made in the context of a Dutch trade mission to Cuba that started Sunday and runs through Wednesday.

“Once formally constituted, Unilever-Suchel, S.A. will build a new factory and enter the Cuban Market with Personal and Home Care categories and international known brands such as Sedal®, Rexona®, OMO®, LUX® and Close-UP®, among others.”

The Netherlands is Cuba’s second largest trading partner in Europe after Spain, importing 120 million euros worth of goods from Cuba in 2014, and exporting to Cuba 107 million euros,  the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

Historic return to Cuba

The opening of this factory would mark a symbolic return to an earlier foray by Unilever into Cuba with Suchel as partner. A joint Unilever endeavor failed in 2012, when Unilever pulled out of a joint venture with the Cuban state-owned detergent Suchel.

The Netherlands signed a political accord with Cuba in January 2014 to engage in political negotiations and to discuss matters of common interest. This current Dutch-Cuba trade mission, first announced on April 24, 2014,  is in furtherance of the goals stated in the 2014 agreement.

Dutch accord and mission depart from EU stance

The 2014 NL-Cuba accord and this Dutch trade mission represent departures from the “common EU” position towards Cuba, which restricts EU relations with Cuba until the latter makes fundamental reforms in areas such as human rights and fundamental freedoms.

While the EU-Cuba relations began to warm in February 2014, bilateral arrangements between the EU and Cuba have not been reached.

The Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, , Bonaire, Curacao, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius), countries within the Kingdom of The Netherlands, are also participating in the trade mission, specifically in the areas of water management, logistics, sustainable development renewable energy, and responsible entrepreneurship.

Tech sectors focus of Dutch mission

The focus of the mission is heavily tech oriented outside the Unilever-Suchel JM, including:  health, water and marine, agrofood and horticulture, logistics and renewable energy.   Minister Ploumen said that “Cuba expressed the need for foreign companies wishing to invest and input new knowledge and technology.”

Judging by the participants in this trade mission, the Dutch are prepared to make those intangible investments in Cuba. Ploumen stated that aside from soap factory, Dutch companies “should also be able to get started in agricultural and agri-logistics deals.”

The full text of the release is below.

Unilever strengthens its presence in Cuba through a joint venture in partnership with Intersuchel, S.A.

  • The creation of the joint venture Unilever-Suchel was approved at the Special Development Zone Mariel in Cuba with an investment of more than 35 million US dollars.

Habana, Cuba, 11 January 2016 – Unilever NV and Intersuchel, S.A. obtained approval from the Cuban government for the creation of the joint venture Unilever-Suchel S.A., in the Mariel Special Development Zone, decision that was communicated to the representatives of both companies today.

With the creation of this company, Cuba‘s economy will benefit by reducing imports to the island and creating new jobs. The development of Mariel Special Zone by the Cuban Government in 2013 conceived to promote sustainable economic development through the attraction of foreign investment, technological innovation and industrial concentration, favored the origination of this co-investment.

The protocol notification ceremony was attended by Ms. Ana Teresa Igarza, General Director of the Mariel Special Development Zone, Ms. Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Trade and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Netherlands, Fabio Prado, President of Unilever Mexico and Caribbean and Pedro Fraga, President of Intersuchel S.A. It was also attended by the Ambassador of the Netherlands in Cuba, Norbert Braakhuis.

Once formally constituted, Unilever-Suchel, S.A. will build a new factory and enter the Cuban Market with Personal and Home Care categories and international known brands such as Sedal®, Rexona®, OMO®, LUX® and Close-UP®, among others.


About Unilever:

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home and Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2 billion consumers a day. It has 172,000 employees and generated sales of €48.4 billion in 2014. Over half (57%) of the company’s footprint is in developing and emerging markets. Unilever has more than 400 brands found in homes around the world, including Persil, Dove, Knorr, Domestos, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Wall’s, PG Tips, Ben & Jerry’s, Marmite, Magnum and Lynx.

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) commits to:

  • Decoupling growth from environmental impact.
  • Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being.
  • Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people by 2020.

Unilever was ranked number one in its sector in the 2015 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In the FTSE4Good Index, it achieved the highest environmental score of 5. It led the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders in the 2015 GlobeScan/SustainAbility annual survey for the fourth year running, and in 2015 was ranked the most sustainable food and beverage company in Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard.

Unilever has been named in LinkedIn LNKD -2.38%’s Top 3 most sought-after employers across all sectors.

For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit www.unilever.com. For more information on the USLP: www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/

About Intersuchel, S.A.

It is a Cuban mechatil society with a long experience in the production and commercialization of personal care and cosmetic products and home care, through its participation in other co-investment companies that operate in Cuba.

With thanks to Edwin Timmer at De Telegraaf for assisting with contacts over the weekend

Lisa Brownlee, Forbes

January 11, 2016

Lisa Brownlee is author of Intellectual Property Due Diligence in Corporate Transactions: Investment, Risk Assessment and Management, a cutting edge reference for conducting high tech deals.


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