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Unilever Taps Syntegra to Manage its Web Presence

Not all e-consulting firms are going the way of the dodo bird or are being snapped up by giant tech firms.

E-consultant Syntegra proved that Monday when it secured a contract with Unilever to help the consumer products titan host its Internet and intranet sites around the world.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Arden Hills, Minn.'s Syntegra will be busy running the English/Dutch company's 2,700 Web sites. Syntegra will lend its Web hosting capabilities to the owner of some of the world's most distinctive brands, including Dove soap and Lipton tea.

Dubbed Global Infrastructure Organization (GIO) E-Services, the new deal will help Unilever maintain the secure standards it desires in its Web presence by consolidating the infrastructure required to host the existing Web sites. Unilever currently honors multiple Web hosting agreements with a number of different companies and would like to make things much simpler.

This deal stems for a broader restructuring from Unilever, which, despite not being a battered New Economy tech company has been shedding scads of brands from its portfolio; it has just 900 brands now left in its portfolio and another 300 set for disposal. If this downsizing comes to fruition it will mean the company will have pared its brand ownership back from 1,600 to 600 in a little more than a year. That's nearly a two-thirds decrease in offerings.

The company said it is part of a February 2000 "Path to Growth" strategy that will save it $2.65 billion. The action will cut 25,000 jobs and close 100 factories and help meet group goals of 5 to 6 percent annual sales growth, operating margins of over 16 percent and earnings per share growth of least 10 percent.

Unilever's choice of Syntegra was perhaps an easy one; the two firms already enjoy an existing consultant-client relationship and Syntegra is well respected as a member of British Telecommunications plc.'s fleet of firms.

While the majority of Unilever's Web sites provide product- and brand-specific information for people all over the world, the company also maintains a number of intranet sites that help the firm's thousands of employees collaborate with one another. Putting these under the sole aegis of Syntegra would alleviate pressure and time spent on internal projects for systems administrators.

Free from additional administrative tasks, these managers will be able to focus on the killer category -- content. In early going, the majority of E-Services' resources will come from Syntegra, with a gradual evolution to the majority of the work being done by Unilever's GIO.

"Our brands - like Dove, Hellmann's, Knorr, Lipton and Pond's - are known the world over and are prized assets. This partnership will be key in enabling the future development of brands through all our Internet activities," said Martin Armitage, senior vice president of Unilever and head of the GIO.