Nestlé seeks to buy all of Häagen-Dazs

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The Independent Online

Nestlé, the Swiss food group, is set to challenge Unilever's number two position in the profitable US ice-cream market by gaining control of Häagen-Dazs, the luxury ice-cream brand.

Nestlé, which merged its US ice-cream unit with Häagen-Dazs in 1999, has approached the brand's new owner, General Mills, about buying it out of the joint venture.

Nestlé intends to exercise an option to buy Häagen-Dazs in the US from General Mills, according to a clause in the original joint-venture agreement between Nestlé and Häagen-Dazs' then-owner, Pillsbury.

The move follows last week's US regulatory approval of Diageo's £7.7bn sale of its Pillsbury food subsidiary to General Mills.

Nestlé started talks last December with General Mills to buy the US stake, estimated to be worth about $600m (£420m). If the sale goes ahead, the Swiss group is expected to try and acquire the rest of Häagen-Dazs' international business, a deal analysts said could value the brand at up to $1bn.

If Nestlé were to gain control of Häagen-Dazs in the US, it would help it to catch the market leader, Good Humor-Breyers, which is owned by Unilever. The US ice-cream market is worth $11bn a year.