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Consumer goods giant Unilever said it had approached Glaxosmithkline about buying the pharmaceutical group's consumer goods arm, after a newspaper reported that a 50 billion-pound ($68.4 billion) bid it made had been rebuffed.

Unilever, which has been under fire from some investors for the group's underperforming share price, confirmed the approach about a potential acquisition of the business in a statement on Saturday.

"GSK Consumer Healthcare is a leader in the attractive consumer health space and would be a strong strategic fit as Unilever continues to re-shape its portfolio," it said.

Unilever sells tea arm, including Lipton, for 4.5bn euros

"There can be no certainty that any agreement will be reached."

GSK declined to comment on the approach.

Earlier, Britain's Sunday Times said the Unilever bid for the business made late last year was worth roughly 50 billion pounds, and had been rejected as too low by GSK and Pfizer , which owns a minority stake in the division.

The approach by Unilever, which owns brands such as Dove soap and Marmite, for Glaxo's portfolio of household brands including Panadol painkillers and Sensodyne toothpaste was understood to have been unsolicited, it added.

Unilever's bid did not include any takeover premium or recognition of synergies, the newspaper said, adding that it was not clear whether the group would make a higher offer.

Unilever has come under pressure from investors after underperforming rivals such as Procter & Gamble.

Chief Executive Alan Jope recently got into a spat with British fund manager Terry Smith, who criticised the group for promoting sustainability credentials at the expense of performance.

Brokerage Jefferies last year put a valuation for the whole consumer unit at 45 billion pounds.

Deutsche Bank analysts said in June 2021 that any takeover bid for GSK's consumer assets worth more then 45 billion pounds would be "eye-watering".

Unilever has previously shot down suggestions that it was in the market for big deals. Jope has said he was only interested in small, bolt-on acquisitions in fast-growing areas such as luxury beauty and health and wellness.

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