Unilever (NYSE: UN, UL) today announced that it plans to sell a number of North American brands and related assets from its Unilever Bestfoods portfolio.

Included in the planned sale are the following food brands: Mazola cooking oil products, Argo and Kingsford‘s corn starches, Karo and Golden Griddle syrups and Henri’s salad dressing. Also included in the sale are the RIT dye and Niagara starch fabric care brands.

Unilever also plans to divest several Canadian brands, including Canada and Benson‘s corn starches, St. Lawrence corn oil, Crown and Beehive corn syrups, Old Colony maple and Old Tyme pancake syrup brands.

The proposed sale of brands, which have combined annual sales approaching US $400 million in North America, is consistent with Unilever’s Path to Growth strategy to focus on a smaller number of brands in clearly defined categories.

Patrick Cescau, Unilever’s Foods Director said: “The planned sale is a logical step in the process of integrating Unilever and Bestfoods. The brands identified for sale represent an attractive portfolio but fall outside of our strategy to focus on leading brands such as Ragu, Hellmann’s and Lipton.”

Mazola is the best-selling retail brand of corn oil in the U.S. and has been a leader in the salad and cooking oils category since 1911. Argo and Kingsford’s together have leading positions in the cornstarch category, while Karo is a leading brand of corn syrup in the U.S. Golden Griddle pancake syrup and Henri’s salad dressings are both well-established brands. In fabric care, Rit is the number one retail fabric dye in the U.S. while Niagara is the second largest brand in the ironing spray category.

Unilever also plans to divest associated manufacturing rights, assets and facilities in Argo, Illinois and Indianapolis, Indiana. In total some 240 employees are affected. Unilever acquired both the brands and associated assets included in the sale when it acquired Bestfoods in October 2000. The company continues to evaluate the long-term position of Mazola outside of North America as part of its regional brand portfolio review.

Unilever expects a deal to be completed by year-end 2001. Goldman Sachs has been retained to advise on the sale.

Note to Editors:

The Unilever brands to be divested are:

North America

    Mazola cooking oils
Argo and Kingsford’s corn starches
Rit fabric dye

United States

    Golden Griddle pancake syrup
Henri’s salad dressing
Niagara spray starch
Karo corn syrup

Canada

    Canada and Benson’s corn starches
St. Lawrence corn oil
Old Colony maple and Old Tyme pancake syrups
Crown and Beehive corn syrups

Brands have total combined 2000 sales approx. US$ 400 million.

UNILEVER BACKGROUND:

Unilever is one of the world’s largest consumer products companies with annual sales of approximately $46 billion in 2000. It produces and markets a wide range of foods and home and personal care products. Unilever operates in 88 countries around the globe and employs approximately 300,000 people.

In the United States, Unilever sales were approximately $11 billion in 2000. It employs some 28,000 people and has 80 offices and manufacturing sites in 26 states. Some of their major products are: Unilever Bestfoods – North America: Lipton teas, soups, recipe products and side dishes; Wish-Bone salad dressings; Lawry’s seasonings and specialty sauces; Country Crock, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” spreads; Ragu and Five Brothers pasta sauces; Knorr soups, sauces and bouillons; Hellmann’s mayonnaise and dressings; Skippy peanut butter; Bertolli Olive Oil; Klondike, Good-Humor, Popsicle, Breyers and Ben & Jerry‘s ice cream products; and Slim-Fast nutritional and health snack products. Unilever Home and Personal Care – North America: Wisk, “all” and Surf laundry detergents; Snuggle fabric softener; Sunlight dish detergents; Lever 2000, Caress, Dove, Degree, Pond’s and Vaseline skin care, deodorant and soap products; Q-tips cotton swabs; Mentadent oral care products; Finesse, Salon Selectives, Suave and ThermaSilk hair care products; and Calvin Klein, Nautica and Lagerfeld cosmetic and fragrance products. In addition, DiverseyLever, a global professional cleaning business, operates in North America, supplying professional cleaning materials and services to institutional and industrial markets.

In Canada, Unilever sales were in excess of C$1.5 billion in 2000. It employs approximately 3300 people and has 33 offices and manufacturing sites in 7 Provinces. Unilever is best known in Canada by brands such as becel margarine, Lipton, Red Rose Tea, Skippy, Hellmann’s, Knorr, Breyer’s, Popsicle, Sunlight Laundry Detergent, Dove, Thermasilk, Salon Selectives and Degree. In addition, DiverseyLever operates in Canada, supplying professional cleaning materials and services to institutional and industrial markets.