Private equity firm KKR has agreed to purchase the global Spreads business of Unilever for €6.8 billion ($8bn) on a cash-free, debt-free basis. The deal is the result of Unilever’s 2020 programme to accelerate sustainable value creation, which it started in April 2017.

Chief executive of Unilever, Paul Polman, said that the sale marks a further step in reshaping and sharpening the company’s portfolio for long-term growth. He believes that the Spreads business will fulfill its full potential and societal responsibilities better under KKR ownership.

Nicolas Liabeuf will continue as chief executive of the Spreads business, which includes iconic brands such as Flora, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Rama and ProActiv, and posted turnover in 2016 of €3bn ($3.5bn).

Saying the business unit provides a firm foundation for future growth, head of KKR EMEA, Johannes Huth, explained that his company will deploy operational expertise to support business growth, and work towards the goal of sourcing 100 per cent sustainable palm oil by 2019.

The investment is funded by European and North American private equity funds of KKR. Completion is expected mid-2018.

Earlier this year Unilever rebuffed a $143bn takeover bid from Kraft Heinz saying that it did not see financial or strategic merit in the deal. The deal would have been one of the largest in corporate history.