Unilever pays £1.1bn for US rival's body care brands

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The Independent Online

Unilever will smarten up its range of grooming products by adding brands including Brylcreem and Radox after agreeing to buy Sara Lee's personal care business for €1.2bn (£1.1bn).

The consumer products giant said the deal would strengthen its position in "skin cleansing and deodorants" boosting a line that includes Dove soap, Sure, Axe and Vaseline.

It marks Unilever's largest takeover in almost a decade and will increase its market share for skin cleansing products from 13 per cent to 23 per cent. It is expected to close the deal next year.

Simon Marshall-Lockyer, an analyst at Jefferies, said the agreement marked a "material step in Unilever's ambitions to grow the company following five years of attrition through divestments and restructuring".

Paul Polman, Unilever's chief executive, called personal care a "strategic category and a key growth driver" for the company. The Sara Lee brands generated €750m in sales over the year to June and Unilever will look to expand them in emerging markets.

Sara Lee is selling off non-core businesses as part of chief executive Brenda Barnes's plan to turn the company around. It will use some of the proceeds to buy back $1bn in stock.