Unilever (NYSE: UN, UL) today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to sell the Bestfoods Baking Company to George Weston Limited (TSE: WN) for US$1.765 billion in cash. The transaction, subject to customary conditions including regulatory approvals, is anticipated to be completed in the second quarter 2001.
In October 2000, Unilever said it would divest the Bestfoods Baking Company, which it acquired as part of its merger with Bestfoods, as it fell outside its Path to Growth strategy that focuses on a number of leading brands in defined core categories of Foods and Home and Personal Care.
The Bestfoods Baking Company is one of the leading premium fresh baked goods companies in the United States. Its best-known brands are Entenmann’s sweet baked goods, Thomas‘ English muffins, bagels and waffles and Oroweat, Brownberry and Arnold breads.
Patrick Cescau, Unilever’s Foods Director said: “This is a very strong business that happens to fall outside of our foods strategy to focus on leading brands in core categories, such as Lipton, Knorr, Slim-Fast and Hellmann’s. We believe the acquisition by Weston will provide the bakery business with a strong platform for growth.”
Unilever said the Bestfoods Baking Company operates as a stand-alone operation. It is headquartered in Bay Shore, New York, employing some 12,000 people at 19 plants across the US. It has one of the country’s largest and most efficient direct-store-delivery systems, distributing fresh bakery products to more than 60,000 customers on almost 5,000 delivery routes.
In 2000, Bestfoods Baking Company had sales of US$1.8 billion, EBITDA of US$203 million and EBIT of US$141 million.
Goldman Sachs has advised Unilever on this transaction.
The agreement to sell the Bestfoods Baking Company follows Unilever’s recent announcement of the completion of the sale of its European Bakery Supplies and Elizabeth Arden businesses, and the agreement to sell certain European soup and sauces businesses. Together with this transaction, the cumulative divestiture proceeds since the acquisition of Bestfoods, is approximately Euro 4 billion.
February 19, 2001
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 104 offices and manufacturing sites in 27 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; Imperial, Promise, Country Crock, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!”, Brummel & Brown spreads and sprays; Ragu pasta and pizza sauces; Five Brothers premium pasta sauces; Knorr soups, sauces and bouillons; Hellmann’s mayonnaise and dressings; Skippy peanut butter; Bertolli Olive Oil and Mazola oils; Entenmann’s, Thomas’ and Arnold baked goods; Klondike, Good-Humor, Popsicle, Breyers and Ben & Jerry‘s ice cream products; Gorton’s frozen seafood 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 and cotton balls; Mentadent oral care products; Finesse, Salon Selectives, Suave and ThermaSilk hair care products; and Calvin Klein, Nautica, Vera Wang 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.
“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 Bestfoods Baking Company and related brands by Unilever. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described herein include: the inability to obtain or delay in obtaining necessary antitrust approvals; actions of the U.S. and local governments; the ability of Bestfoods Baking Company management to manage the business during the pre-closing period; the ability of George Weston Limited 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 filed by George Weston Limited and furnished by Unilever with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Neither Unilever nor George Weston Limited 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.