European convenience foods group Uniq has announced the sale of its French spreads business St Hubert to the Dairy Crest Group for EUR370m (US$473m).

Dairy Crest will acquire 100% of Paris-based St Hubert in an all-cash deal which represents a multiple of 11.1x EBITDA. Uniq said the proceeds of the sale, expected to be completed in January 2007, would be used to reduce existing debt and address the company's current UK pension deficit.

The deal remains subject to approval by both Uniq's and Dairy Crest's shareholders, and the St Hubert Works Council will also have to be consulted.

"This proposed GBP248m sale is an integral part of our plan to unlock Uniq's true potential," said Uniq chief executive Geoff Eaton. "Our recovery in the remaining GBP760m of our revenue stream is gathering momentum and will be further supported by a strong balance sheet. In France, we are in consultation to address the competitiveness of our Marie convenience business and the previously announced relaunch of our frozen business is showing early promise."

Uniq said in June that it planned to focus on a smaller number of convenience food businesses with the greatest potential for significant profit growth and shareholder value, which would involve considering the sale of St Hubert and its Belgian salads business. The company said it believes there is significant opportunity for creating greater value from the more focused business, with the growth being driven by recovery plans already underway in the UK and Northern Europe.

St Hubert is the second-largest player in the French spreads market with a market share of around 31%, and joint leader in the better-for-you spreads category. Its primary brands are St Hubert and Le Fleurier. St Hubert also sells spreads, quiches, tarts and dough products in Italy, while its Vallé label is the leading brand in the Italian spreads market.

St Hubert employs 178 people and generated EBITDA of EUR33.3m in the year to the end of March 2006.