Unilever sells US pasta sauce business for $2.15bn to Japan's Mizkan Group


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The Independent Online

Unilever is selling its North American pasta sauce brands, Ragu and Bertolli, to Mizkan Group for $2.15 billion in cash as it continues to streamline its operations.

Japan’s Mizkan — a 200-year-old vinegar and food manufacturer — paid $2.15 billion (£1.27 billion) for Unilever’s US pasta sauce brands Ragu and Bertolli, it revealed today.

Mizkan — which bought Premier Foods’ Branston pickle and Sarson’s vinegar brands back in 2012 — has stepped up its acquisitions recently. It first entered the US market in the Eighties. Ragu and Bertolli have an annual turnover of more than $600 million and the deal should complete next month.

Analysts at Panmure Gordon said the price paid by Mizkan is 3.5 times sales and is “healthy” but noted the after-tax proceeds of the sale were likely to fall to around €1 billion (£810,000).

Unilever, which also makes Dove soap and Lynx deodorant, is focusing on its health and beauty businesses. It has already off-loaded its Bifi and Peperami brands this year but it is still looking for a buyer for its Slim-Fast brand.

Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever North America, said the sale takes it closer to the end of its US clear out. He said: “This sale represents one of the final steps in reshaping our portfolio in North America to deliver sustainable growth for Unilever, and enables us to sharpen our focus within foods.