French food manufacturer Danone today [Friday] announced the sale of its UK and Ireland biscuits business to UK snack and biscuit major United Biscuits.

UB will pay €360m (US$438m) to acquire Jacob's and Irish Biscuits, which will make it the number one player in the UK biscuits sector.

The deal is subject to the approval of the UK and Irish competition authorities.

Jacob's is a leading supplier of savoury biscuits in the UK and Ireland with total sales of over £184m (US$338m) reported in 2003. Jacob's principal brands include Jacob's Cream Crackers, Thai Bites and Twiglets.

Malcolm Ritchie, UB's CEO, said: "As new players enter this sector it is increasingly important for brands to be a part of a focused business. Jacob's is a natural extension of UB's existing businesses servicing a similar consumer and customer base. There exists strong demand for Jacob's range of products which we are confident can be extended to the benefit of the two companies and our consumers. As with all UB's activities the focus will be on maintaining a high level of investment behind priority brands to ensure they enhance their market position."

As for Danone, the move is a key step in its campaign to restructure its cookie division, which has been performing sluggishly for some time.