Unilever swallows up French mustard maker for £460m

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The Independent Online

Unilever, the Persil to Oxo group, yesterday spiced up its food portfolio by acquiring a French mustard maker for FFr2.3bn (£460m).

Unilever, the Persil to Oxo group, yesterday spiced up its food portfolio by acquiring a French mustard maker for FFr2.3bn (£460m).

The Anglo-Dutch consumer products group left a sour taste in the mouths of its rivals when it snapped up Amora Maille, the Dijon-based company that produces the gourmet Maille mustard brand as well as ketchup, sauces and salad dressings under its Maille and Amora labels. The group holds the top spot in the French condiments market and Unilever intends to position Maille as its global delicatessen brand.

The French delicacies will sit alongside more mundane products such as Colman's mustard and Chicken Tonight ready-made cooking sauce in Unilever's European food and beverage unit. Unilever hopes they will boost the company's share of Europe's appetising culinary market to 12 per cent from 9 per cent.

The deal was well-received among UK investors, driving Unilever shares up 22p to 475.5p.

The Amora Maille deal is Unilever's third culinary products purchase this year and a spokesman promised yesterday that "other acquisitions of this order can be expected as time goes by".

Last month, Unilever completed the takeover of Sweden's Slotts and Kockens, which makes mustard, ketchup and seasonings. And in April, the group added the Melissa-Pummaro's Greek tomato-products business to its portfolio.

Carl Short, an analyst at SG Securities, described yesterday's acquisition as "sensible". He said: "It is one of Unilever's core areas and although the immediate return on capital is not all that high, I think with synergy benefits and growth in the business they should pretty soon be creating value."

The acquisition of Amora Maille comes as Unilever implements plans cut its range from 1,600 products to a core of just 400 and focus on so-called "powerbrands" which lead their markets around the world. Roy Brown, president of Unilever's European food and beverage division, said: "With Amora and Maille Unilever acquires two leading culinary brands which have the potential to become powerbrands."

The European culinary market is currently worth about £9.3bn. Amora Maille is expected to achieve a full-year operating profit of £27m on sales of £224m.

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