After the European Commission conditionally cleared the Unilever buyout of US food group Bestfoods on 29 September, speculation has abounded concerning who would pick up the brands that the Anglo-Dutch behemoth was ordered to shed. Now, it seems that Swiss giant Nestlé is the likely contender for some of the divestments.

“Certain parts of Unilever’s divestment aren’t uninteresting for Nestlé and would fit our strategy in Europe,” commented Robert Raeber, head of Nestlé Europe. Some brands would, he continued, tie in with Nestlé’s European strategy, but the company will not be showing favour to the large names over the small. It will continue its policy of selected acquisitions.

Analyst Chris Burger at Bank Sarasin believes that because “Unilever has to sell these brands and might come under pressure to find a buyer, prices could be interesting for Nestlé.” He added that because the soup market is not growing particularly fast, the Oxo brand could be the most valuable to Nestlé.

“Another interesting company for Nestlé is Quaker Oats in the US,” said Raeber. The Chicago based processing company is worth more than US$10bn on the stock market and has already mustered interest from Kellogg.

The Unilever brands up for sale are worth an annual total of €400m and include soup makers McDonnells, Batchelors and Royco, the bouillon cube Oxo and French salad dressing producer Lesieur.