Sara Lee plans to sell its Spanish and French bakery units

Sara Lee plans to sell its Spanish and French bakery units

Sara Lee is to sell its bakery division in Spain and a refrigerated dough unit in France as it continues to restructure its business ahead of its plan to split in two.

The US food company said today (11 August) that "numerous bids" had been received for the two businesses.

A third unit, Sara Lee's frozen desserts business in Australia, "remains under strategic review", it said.

All three operations are part of Sara Lee's international bakery division. In January, Sara Lee said it would divide itself in two. One company, which will retain the Sara Lee name, will be spun off and focus on the group's North American grocery retail and foodservice arms. The second as yet unnamed firm will consist of Sara Lee's North American and international beverage operations and its international bakery arm.

The announcement on the imminent sales in Spain and France came as Sara Lee reported its fourth-quarter results.

The company's shares tumbled after it reported a decline in fourth-quarter net income.

Sara Lee's stock was down 4.15% to US$16.59 after the company reported a 40% drop in fourth-quarter net profit to US$111m. The company attributed the decline to a $248m increase in commodity costs.

Over the period, sales rose 8.7% to $2.3bn. Volumes, however, fell 6.6%, which the company attributed to a 9.3% drop in sales its beverage business and a 6.9% fall in sales from its the North American meat business.

The company said that full-year net income more than doubled to reach $1.3bn. Net sales increased 4.1% over the year to $8.7bn.

Click here for the complete statement from Sara Lee and click here for coverage of the company's conference call with analysts.