Unilever announced today agreement to sell several of its dry soup and sauces businesses in Europe to Campbell Soup Company for a debt free price of €1 billion. The sale is conditional on approval by the European Commission Mergers Task Force and subject to consultative procedures before completion.

The businesses include three instant dry soup brands — “Batchelors” in the United Kingdom, “Royco” in France and Belgium and “Heisse Tasse” in Germany; together with the “McDonnells” brand in Ireland, “Oxo” in the UK and Ireland, the “Bla Band” brand in Nordic and additional brands in the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal. Also included is the “Lesieur” range of mayonnaise products in France. Annual sales of the business total approximately €435 million.

The businesses are being divested as a result of undertakings given to the European Commission in connection with the acquisition of Bestfoods which was completed in October 2000.

The combined businesses have manufacturing sites in the United Kingdom (2), the Netherlands, Ireland, France and Sweden and have approximately 1,300 employees in total. Net tangible assets are approximately €100 million.

The divestment follows the sale of Unilever’s European Bakery Supplies and Elizabeth Arden businesses, and will bring the cumulative total proceeds since the acquisition of Bestfoods to around €2 billion.

Patrick Cescau, Unilever Foods director, said: “We are delighted with this agreement for Campbell to acquire the entire portfolio of brands being sold as a result of the undertakings to the EC. Campbell’s commitment to grow this business and the swiftness with which agreement has been reached, removes much uncertainty for our employees. We will continue to focus on the integration of Bestfoods and the growth of our business.”

Editors’ Notes:

The businesses being divested had combined sales of €435 million in 2000; EBITDA of €87 million and EBIT of €78 million. Overall sales have grown at 1 per cent per annum over the last three years.

Goldman Sachs has advised Unilever on this transaction.

Brands being sold by Unilever include:

Brand Country Category
Batchelors United Kingdom Instant dry soup; noodles; canned vegetables
Oxo UK and Ireland Bouillon
Royco France Instant dry soup
Lesieur France Mayonnaise and dressings
Royco Belgium Instant dry soup
Liebig/Liebox Belgium Bouillon
Heisse Tasse Germany Instant dry soup
McDonnells Ireland Dry soup and sauces
Bla Band Sweden, Finland, Denmark Instant dry soup; regular dry sauces; regular dry soup
Isomitta Finland Regular dry sauces; regular dry soups
Raguletto Germany Wet pasta sauce
Rijke Sauzen Netherlands Wet sauce

Safe Harbor Statement:
This press release contains certain “forward-looking” statements. These statements are based on management’s current expectations and are naturally subject to uncertainty and changes in circumstances. Actual results may vary materially from the expectations contained herein.