Dutch food and cosmetics group Unilever had bought a majority stake in Chinese water purification company Qinyuan in its biggest investment in the country in a decade, it said yesterday. “We are delighted to be making this strategic investment, a majority stake in Qinyuan, our biggest acquisition in China for more than 10 years,” Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said. Rotterdam-based Unilever, which clocked up a net profit of e4.84 billion (R72bn) last year, declined to put an amount on the deal or disclose the size of its stake. Qinyuan last year made almost e140 million in sales in China’s rapidly expanding water purification market, which had grown more than 20 percent a year over the past three years, Unilever said. “This deal will more than double the size of our water purification business and will bring together complementary technology… all under the Unilever umbrella,” Polman said. Founded in 1930, Unilever employs about 174 000 people worldwide and has some of the best-known brands like Knorr, Omo, Lipton and Magnum ice cream in its portfolio. Qinyuan makes water purifiers and drinking water equipment and has about 2 500 employees. – Sapa-AFP