Sara Lee to sell half of body care, detergent business to Unilever

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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DOWNERS GROVE, ILL. — In a move that would sharply reduce the size of its only non-food/beverage business, Sara Lee Corp. on Sept. 25 said it has received a binding offer of €1,275 million ($1,870 million) to acquire its global body care and European detergents business.

Sara Lee said the businesses sought by Unilever generated annual sales of €750 million in fiscal 2009, accounting for about 50% of sales and 55% of the adjusted operating segment income of the International Household and Body Care business.

The company projected the transaction would close in 2010, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory clearances.

"The divestiture of body care and European detergents would advance our strategy to concentrate on our core food and beverage businesses where we enjoy a strong competitive position and where we can generate superior shareholder returns," said Brenda C. Barnes, chairman and chief executive officer of Sara Lee. "We intend to use proceeds from the divestiture to invest for growth in our core businesses and to repurchase stock."

In connection with stock repurchases, Sara Lee said its board of directors had authorized a $1 billion share repurchase program in addition to an existing program worth about $150 million.

Brands included in the proposed sale to Unilever include Sanex, Radox and Dusehdas.

Excluded brands included Ambi Pur air care, Kiwi shoe care, Ridsect insecticides and White King bleach.

News of the pending sale followed a Sara Lee announcement in March that it was reviewing strategic options for its international household and body care business after receiving expressions of interest. In an August update, the company said it was "currently considering all alternatives for the segment, including the option to divest the business."

In announcing the Unilever agreement, Sara Lee said it has received significant interest in the remainder of its home and beauty care brands and "is continuing to pursue divestiture options for this business."

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