Unigate buys French producers

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UNIGATE, the UK's second-largest milk producer, has agreed to buy two ready-made food subsidiaries from the French food producer Danone for 1.45bn francs (pounds 144m).

Marie Surgeles is France's largest maker of frozen meals, while Generale Traiteur ranks first in chilled dishes, Danone said. The two companies contributed about Ffr60m to Danone's 1998 operating income.

The move is the latest in Danone's 1995 plan to sell parts of its grocery- products division - which included pasta in addition to ready-made foods - to focus on higher-margin dairy snacks and beverages. The announcement came after the close of French trading yesterday.