Unilever to acquire Sara Lee portfolio

Unilever to acquire Sara Lee portfolio

New Delhi: Unilever Plc, the maker of Dove soaps, has agreed to buy the bodycare and European detergent units of Sara Lee Corp. for €1.28 billion (Rs9,024 crore) in an all-cash deal that would add Sanex, Radox and Duschdas shower gels to its product portfolio.

The acquisition will not impact the Indian joint venture between the Godrej group and Sara Lee as products sold by the local firm is in the home care space, group chairman Adi Godrej told Mint.

Godrej Sara Lee Ltd markets brands such as insect repellents Good Knight, Jet, Hit and Banish, room freshener Ambi Pur and hair cream Brylcreem.

Godrej has been keen to buy Sara Lee’s 51% stake in the Indian venture ever since the New York-listed consumer products firm announced its plan to exit non-core businesses. However, a Godrej executive said: “Godrej will take a call when Sara Lee gets buyers for its other categories."

If Unilever, based in London and Rotterdam, buys the personal care portfolio, it would be easier for Sara Lee to sell-off its remaining non-core products in categories such as home care and shoe care.

An analyst said the only immediate impact of the deal in India could be on Brylcreem, Sara Lee’s hair cream for men, which is a personal care brand. “The other brands of the Indian joint venture are not in the personal care space," said Sameer Deshmukh, analyst with Mumbai-based brokerage Tata Securities Ltd.

The 49% Godrej stake in the joint venture was earlier held by Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd and Godrej Industries Ltd. The stake now belongs to Godrej Consumer Products Ltd, which owns brands such as Cinthol and Godrej No. 1 soaps.

In 2009, Sara Lee’s bodycare and Europen detergent businesses generated approximately €750 million ($1.0 billion) in annual sales, according to the company’s website.

The acquisition is likely to strengthen Unilever’s foothold in Europe and Asia. “Personal care is a strategic category and a key growth driver for Unilever," Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, said in a statement. “This transaction builds on our portfolio in Western Europe and also in Asia."