Hillshire Brands has agreed to sell its Australia and New Zealand bakery business, Kitchens of Sara Lee, to McCain Foods.

The US group, formed after Sara Lee split in two earlier this year, struck a deal to sell the frozen bakery and desserts business to McCain for A$82m. (US$85m). McCain will also get licensing rights to the Sara Lee trademark in relation to bakery in Australia.

The deal is scheduled to close in the first half of 2013. No fresh bakery brands are affected.

Before the split, Sara Lee Corp. offloaded a number of its bakery assets in the US and overseas but in February said would keep the Australian bakery business.

However, Hillshire CEO Sean Connolly said today (19 December): "The sale of this business enables Hillshire Brands to focus on driving growth and innovation in our retail and foodservice segments in North America."

For Hillshire, the deal offers an opportunity to focus on its core branded meat business. However, there has also been speculation that Hillshire itself could become a takeover target.

This is only likely to increase following the disposal of non-core assets. The group was not immediately available for further comment on the McCain deal.

Steve Yung, MD of McCain's operations in Australia and New Zealand, said: "Sara Lee will be a great addition to our family of frozen foods, offering our customers an expanded range of products across desserts, meals and snack occasions. Sara Lee is a recognised and trusted brand that is highly complementary to our business."