Unilever Returns to Cuba as Nation's Tensions With West Thaw

  • Joint venture to produce Lux soap, Close-Up toothpaste
  • Anglo-Dutch company to own 60 percent of joint venture

Unilever, the maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, is returning to Cuba after a four-year hiatus by forming a $35 million joint venture with state-owned detergents company Intersuchel SA.

The alliance will make and sell products including Sedal shampoo and Lux soap in the Cuban market, Unilever said in a statement Monday. The Anglo-Dutch company will own a 60 percent stake in the company, which will create about 300 jobs and be based in Mariel, a port city about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Havana that the Cuban government has named a development zone for foreign investment projects.

QuickTake Cuba-U.S. Reboot

The partnership “reflects the confidence that Unilever has in Cuba,” Fabio Prado, President of Unilever Mexico and Caribbean, said in a statement.

Unilever is returning to a market it left in 2012, as Cuba’s 2014 foreign investment law makes it more attractive to expand there. The country offered tax cuts and firmed up investment security through the measure as tensions between its Communist regime and the west begin to thaw.

In December, the U.S. and Cuba agreed to restore commercial flights between the two countries for the first time in more than a half century. The White House will also decide within a few months whether President Barack Obama marks his final year in office with a historic trip to Cuba, which has been under a U.S. trade embargo for more than 50 years.

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