Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever has agreed to sell its Birds Eye frozen food business to private equity group Permira for EUR1.73bn (US$2.22bn).

The business, which includes Birds Eye and Iglo, collectively produced sales of GBP836m (US$1.6bn) last year, with profits of GBP117m. It employs about 3,500 people across Europe, of which 1,300 are based at sites in the UK.

Permira saw off competition to buy the business from rivals including CapVest, which owns the Findus frozen food brand. Other rival bidders included Blackstone Capital Partners, Kerry Group and JPMorgan Partners.

Under the terms of the deal, Permira will secure the conglomerate’s frozen food operations in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK. However, it could decide to divest itself of some parts of the Unilever business to appease regulators.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval and a consultative process with the relevant employee works councils, is expected to be completed before the end of the year.