US chewing gum maker Wm Wrigley Jr has announced that it has entered into an agreement to buy the Life Savers, Creme Savers and Altoids confectionery brands from Kraft Foods for US$1.48bn.

The transaction also includes a number of local or regional brands and production facilities in the United States and Europe.

"With our confectionery focus and expertise, we look for these brands to flourish under the Wrigley umbrella and anticipate being able to take full advantage of their marketplace potential," said chairman, president and CEO Bill Wrigley, Jr.

Peter Hempstead, Wrigley's senior vice president of worldwide strategy and new business, added that the acquisition would provide additional diversification in key categories of mints and hard and chewy confectionery, expanding the company's portfolio. The deal will also add scale and brand depth to the company's innovation pipeline and increase efficiency across its confectionery supply chain.

The transaction, which is subject to certain regulatory clearances, is expected to be completed by mid-2005.

Kraft Foods said the brands represent about 1.5% of its global revenues and are being sold as part of its Sustainable Growth Plan.

"We continue to make significant progress on our Sustainable Growth Plan, which has led to encouraging momentum in our top-line growth," said Roger Deromedi, Kraft's chief executive officer. "This divestiture is part of our strategy to transform Kraft's portfolio. By enabling us to better focus our resources, the sale should create value for Kraft, as well as our employees, customers and shareholders."