HJ Heinz Company has signed a definitive agreement to sell its European seafood business to Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking for a price of EUR425m (US$505m).

The transaction itself is subject to customary EU competition review and approval but the companies will seal the deal – first tabled on 1 February 2006 – by the end of March.

Heinz Europe spokesman Michael Mullen told just-food: “This is a major step forward in our plan to focus and simplify the business in three specific areas – these are ketchup and sauces; baby foods; and meals and snacks.”

Mullen also said Heinz Europe workers would be transferred to Lehman Brothers, and their employment is expected to continue as normal. The European Seafood business has approximately 5,000 employees and annual sales of over EUR400m, producing more than 400m cans of seafood products annually.