Updated 10:56 PM EST, Mon, Nov 23, 2020

Unilever Returning to Cuba with $35M Budget in 2017

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Unilever is back to business in Cuba with a $35 million budget in 2017.

The Dutch-British firm first departed the Communist country in 2012 due to a disagreement over who would have the controlling interest in their joint venture, Reuters wrote. On Monday, both sides agreed to construct a $35 million soap and toothpaste factory in Cuba's special development zone located at the port of Mariel west of Havana, the nation's capital.

The factory will begin operations in 2018 and will manufacture products such as Sedal shampoo, Omo detergent, Lux soap, Rexona deodorant, and Close-Up toothpaste, Unilever said in a statement, as reported by Reuters. The global consumer products company now owns a majority 60 percent stake compared to 40 percent for Cuba's state company, Intersuchel S.A.

The signing ceremony occurred during a visit to Cuba by Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Lilianne Ploumen as the head of delegation that consisted of 60 businesses, the news outlet noted. Ploumen said in an interview with reporters that she is hoping Unilever would be the first of numerous Dutch companies flocking to Cuba for business opportunities.

Ploumen was in Cuba to seal trade links, according to The Telegraph. She came in the country with major firms, including Heineken and Philips.

Unilever serves as the ninth and best-known company to be allowed to operate at the Chinese-style Mariel Special Development Zone, or ZEDM, which is home to a modern container port, Reuters noted. The firm was one of the first to set up a venture in Cuba once Communist authorities permitted investors from the West. Cuba's former benefactor was the Soviet Union, which fell from power in the 1990s.

At the time of Cuba's dispute with Unilever, the nation's Communist government favored to hold a majority stake in joint venture with foreign companies, Reuters further reported. However, Cuba has become more willing to compromise since opening Mariel Zone two years ago.

The past two years saw Cuba opening its economy to foreign investment, especially with the Mariel Zone, the news outlet added. A 2014 law is also offering tax breaks and other incentives to businesses.

The island nation, which is inhabited by about 11.1 million people, has seen some noteworthy changes since 2011, The Telegraph reported. Cuba has approved nine foreign companies to stay in the Mariel Zone. Several of these firms are in partnership with the Cuban state.

Brazil funded $682 million of the $1 billion investment in Mariel's deep-water port, The Telegraph noted. The 180-square-mile economic zone offers exceptional deals in Cuba, such as such as 50-year contracts, 100 percent ownership of assets, and tax reductions.

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