Unilever and Reckitt in contest for Kodak arm

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TWO UK firms, Unilever and Reckitt & Colman, are said to be among the three final bidders in Kodak's private auction of its household products division, whose price could now reach dollars 2bn.

A buyer could be announced later this week, according to industry analysts who have followed the three-month bidding process for L&F. Since Kodak announced plans in May to divest non-core businesses, a dozen consumer products companies have expressed interest in the unit, which encompasses a diverse range of brands led by Lysol, the best-selling line of disinfectant cleaners and deodorisers.

Kodak is believed to have decided to sell the unit whole to a single buyer, which is expected to re-sell some of its brands to recoup some of the cost.

The anticipated price-tag for L&F has soared to between dollars 1.7bn and dollars 2bn because of the keen interest in Lysol, squeezing smaller prospective buyers and leaving only the two big European firms and a third reported bidder, Colgate-Palmolive, in the running. The weak US dollar has considerably strengthened the buying power of non-American bidders.

Kodak yesterday confirmed that it expects easily to recoup the dollars 5.4bn book value of the four businesses it is selling as part of the refocusing announced last spring. It has already raised dollars 1.68bn from the sale of the prescription drugs division of Sterling Winthrop to France's Sanofi.

Either Bayer AG or Procter & Gamble is expected to pay another dollars 2bn for the over-the-counter division of the drug company. The fourth business on the block is Kodak's clinical diagnostics division.

Market Report, page 24