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Unilever (NYSE: UN, UL) today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to sell its North American seafood businesses to Nippon Suisan (USA), Inc, a subsidiary of Nippon Suisan Kaisha Limited for US$175 million in cash.

The deal comprises the Gorton’s business in the United States and the BlueWater Seafoods business in Canada. The transaction, subject to customary conditions including regulatory approvals, is anticipated to be completed in the second half 2001.

Gorton’s is the leading retail frozen seafood brand in the U.S., while BlueWater Seafoods is the second largest brand in Canada. In addition, Gorton’s supplies frozen seafood to the foodservice industry in the U.S. Together the businesses had 2000 net sales of US$250 million and EBITDA of US$20 million.

The decision to sell Gorton’s and BlueWater is part of Unilever’s Path to Growth strategy that focuses on a number of leading brands in defined core categories of Foods and Home and Personal Care.

Patrick Cescau, Unilever’s Foods Director said: “The sale of Gorton’s and BlueWater is consistent with our focus on brands that are core to Unilever such as Knorr, Lipton and Dove. Although both businesses are robust we feel there is little scope for Unilever to grow the brands outside of North America where we already have well-established brands in this category.”

Included in the sale is Gorton’s head office in Gloucester, Massachusetts and three production sites in Gloucester MA, Cleveland OH and Montreal, Canada. The businesses currently employ about 750 people.

Note to Editors:

The businesses being divested had combined net sales of US$250 million in 2000; EBITDA of US$20 million.

Nippon Suisan (USA), Inc is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tokyo-based seafood conglomerate Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd. In the United States the business comprises Fishking Processors, Inc based in Los Angeles and UniSea, Inc based in Redmond, WA.

Morgan Stanley advised Unilever on this transaction.

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.

The business comprises: Unilever Bestfoods – North America: Lipton teas, recipe products and side dishes; Wish-Bone salad dressings; Lawry’s seasonings; Country Crock and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” spreads; Ragu pasta sauces; Knorr soups, sauces and bouillons; Hellmann’s mayonnaise; Skippy peanut butter; Bertolli olive oil; Good-Humor, Breyers and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream; 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, Imperial margarine, Lipton, Red Rose Tea, Ragu, Skippy, Hellmann’s, Knorr, Breyer’s, Popsicle, Bertolli Olive Oil, Sunlight Laundry Detergent, Sunlight Dish Liquid, Vaseline, Q-Tips, Dove, Thermasilk, Salon Selectives and Degree.

‘Safe Harbor’ Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: This press release contains certain `forward-looking’ statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. 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. The forward-looking statements contained herein include statements about future financial and operating results and benefits of the pending disposal of the Gorton’s and BlueWater businesses by Unilever.

Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described therein include: the inability to obtain or delay in obtaining necessary antitrust approvals; actions of the U.S., Canadian and local governments; the performance of Gorton’s and BlueWater businesses during the pre-closing period; the ability of Nippon Suisan (USA), Inc to raise adequate funds prior to closing; costs related to the disposal; the economic and financial market environment of the food and consumer product manufacturing industry and the general economic environment. More detailed information about these factors is set forth in the reports furnished by Unilever with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Neither Unilever nor Nippon Suisan (USA), Inc. is under any obligation to (and expressly disclaims any such obligation to) update or alter its forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

The European Fish and Seafood Market


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