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Kraft withdraws offer to merge with Unilever

REUTERS - U.S. food company Kraft Heinz Co has agreed to withdraw its proposal for a $143-billion merger with larger rival Unilever Plc, the companies said on Sunday.

Kraft had made a surprise offer for Unilever in a bid to build a global consumer goods behemoth, although it was flatly rejected on Friday by Unilever, the maker of Lipton tea and Dove soap.

Kraft withdrew its offer because it felt it was too difficult to negotiate the deal following the public disclosure of its bid so early following its approach to Unilever, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss confidential deliberations.

Kraft was forced to publicly disclose its offer to Unilever on Friday to comply with Britain's takeover regulations, after rumors of its approach to Unilever circulated among stock traders.

The companies did not provide details of the reason for ending the discussion in a statement.

A combination would be the third-biggest takeover in history and the largest acquisition of a UK-based company, according to Thomson Reuters data.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Zieminski)