H J Heinz Company has today (Monday) confirmed that it has signed a definitive agreement with Groupe Danone SA to acquire a number of leading culinary sauce brands for £470m (US$855m) in cash.

The transaction includes the HP and Lea & Perrins brands and a perpetual license to market Amoy Asian sauces and products in Europe, Heinz said.

These brands, marketed primarily in the UK, United States and Canada, have approximately $300m in worldwide annual sales. This acquisition will strengthen Heinz's global condiments & sauces business and make it the sauces leader in the UK, Heinz said.

"The acquisition of these brands is consistent with our strategy to drive growth in our profitable and expanding core condiments and sauces category," said Heinz chairman, president and CEO William R. Johnson. "We will add two of the world's best-known sauce names, HP and Lea & Perrins, to our global basket of iconic condiments and sauce brands, such as Heinz, ABC, Classico and Wattie's. Heinz also will gain a perpetual license to sell the rapidly growing Amoy brand of Asian sauces throughout Europe."

"This acquisition underscores our commitment to become a faster-growing, more focused company," he said. "It also is in line with our strategy of growth in our four core businesses of ketchup, condiments & sauces; meals & snacks; infant nutrition; and foodservice. We have identified many opportunities to expand sales of the HP, Lea & Perrins and Amoy brands."

The acquisition is expected to close during the next few months, pending all regulatory approvals.

HP Foods employs approximately 450 workers at three factories. Two are located in the UK at Aston Cross, Birmingham and Worcester, Worcestershire. The North American production facility is in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.