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Unilever Sells Select Brands to Campbell
Associated Press
LONDON — The Anglo-Dutch company Unilever is selling a stable of soup and sauce brands, including Oxo bouillon cubes, to Campbell Soup Co. for about $924 million, the two companies announced Monday.

The transaction requires final approval from the European Commission merger authorities. EC officials ordered Unilever to sell the brands as a condition of its $21.3 billion purchase last October of Bestfoods, which makes Hellmanns mayonnaise and Knorr dried soups. As part of the agreement, Unilever also has sold its European Bakery Supplies and Elizabeth Arden businesses.

Campbell, based in Camden, N,J., said the purchase bolsters its global market share for dried soup, which accounts for about half of commercial soup consumption in Europe.

It follows Campbell's purchase of Liebig, the leading wet soup maker in France, Erasco, the leading wet soup in Germany, and Homepride, Britain's leading cooking sauce.

"This acquisition significantly strengthens our vision of global soup leadership," Douglas R. Conant, Campbell president and chief executive.

The businesses have combined annual sales of more than euros $400 million, and account for 1,300 jobs in Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, France and Sweden.

Included in the deal are three instant dry soup brands — Batchelors in Britain, Royco in France and Belgium, Heisse Tasse in Germany, and the Bla Brand of dry soups and sauces in the Scandinavian countries.

"Campbell's commitment to grow this business and the swiftness with which the agreement has been reached, removes much uncertainty for our employees," said Patrick Cescau, Unilever Foods director. "We will continue to focus on the integration of Bestfoods and the growth of our business."

In a separate announcement, Campbell said its second quarter net income will be 63 cents to 65 cents a share, or 4 to 6 cents higher than estimates, due to strong performance in its U.S. soup business. The company reiterated that year earnings will be essentially flat.

Last year, the soup company earned $281 million, or 65 cents a share, in the second quarter and $714 million, or $1.65 a share, for the year.

Unilever shares rose in early trading Monday in London, to 60.20 euros from 60.00 euros on Friday.

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