Sale lifts disposal proceeds for BP

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BRITISH Petroleum's planned sale of its consumer products division, which makes own-label shampoos and other toiletries for the large supermarket chains, will mean the group will receive nearly dollars 1bn ( pounds 650m) from disposals in the early months of this year.

Some analysts have been sceptical of BP's ability to reach its target of dollars 3bn-dollars 4bn of disposals in 1992 and 1993, part of a strategy of tackling the huge debts that forced it to cut its dividend last year after David Simon became chief executive.

The sale of the consumer products division, which is dominated by Robert McBride, based in Manchester, is likely to bring in pounds 250m (dollars 385m).

BP has also still to receive the cash from two deals agreed in November - the dollars 456m sale to Minorco of its stake in the Olympic Dam mine in Australia, and the dollars 110m sale of its cooked sausage and pate business to Sara Lee of the US. This is on top of the proceeds, perhaps dollars 1.7bn, that BP made from disposals last year.

BP's consumer products division employs about 3,500 people and has sales of more than pounds 250m. Bidders reportedly include financial institutions such as Mercury Asset Management, Legal & General and Citicorp.

BP would not comment on the consumer products sale beyond saying that it forms part of BP Nutrition, a business from which it is seeking a 'managed exit'.

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