Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever is believed to have offered big concessions to representatives of the European Commission that could amount to "significant business disposals." Its June bid of US$21.3bn for Bestfoods of the US has already been approved by antitrust authorities in the US, but the results of the first round of EU investigation are due to be released today, and the Anglo-Dutch food group is anxious to avoid a second phase of hearings.

Unilever is apparently prepared to ditch its popular Oxo stock cubes and Bachelor's Cup-A-Soup products as the US group already markets the overlapping Bovril and Knorr brands, which could otherwise hinder regulatory clearance of the takeover bid. Unilever's brand disposal might not end there, however. Unilever's acquisition of Bestfoods' Hellmann's mayonnaise brand will probably force the Dutch giant to offload Lesieur mayonnaise from the French market.

Unilever has already sold its bakery business and is expected to sell off the bakery division of Bestfoods if the deal is approved. The sale of Thomas' English Muffins and Entenmann's baked goods is expected to generate US$2bn.

Further streamlining is likely to follow as Unilever and Bestfoods independently control food operations in around 60 countries. This is coherent with Unilever's decision last year to trim its large portfolio to focus primarily on 400 so-called 'power brands,' including Lipton tea, Magnum ice cream and Ragú cooking sauces.

The deal will see the market power of Unilever increase dramatically and shareholders are expected to give their approval when they vote on Monday (2 October). Unilever has announced that it is "hopeful and confident" that the deal will be approved by the Commission because, "taking into account the effect of these proposed disposals, the acquisition is compatible with the EC common market." The group is also hoping, however, that regulators will not insist that brand disposals be made before the takeover is cleared.

Unilever's acquisition of Bestfoods is part of a large-scale realignment currently in progress in the global food manufacturing arena. Later this year Kraft Foods will integrate Nabisco, creating a new colossus in the biscuit and cracker sector.