Sara Lee Plans to Pay Down $970 Million in Debt Before Split

Sara Lee Corp. (SLE) said it intends to pay off as much as $970 million in debt as it prepares to spin off its coffee and tea company.

The remaining U.S. meat business, maker of Jimmy Dean sausage, Hillshire Farm lunch meat and Ball Park franks, would be left with about $942 million in debt after the split, the Downers Grove, Illinois-based company said today in a regulatory filing.

Sara Lee is separating the coffee company, which sells Douwe Egberts, Senseo and Moccona brands, in order to focus it on growth while the meat unit works on upgrading products in its home market. The spinoff is expected to be complete by the end of June, Sara Lee has said.

The company’s North America-based pension plans will remain with the meat unit while the non-North American pensions will be assumed by the coffee business, according to the filing.

Sara Lee fell 2.2 percent to $20.77 at the close in New York today. The shares have gained 9.8 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Duane D. Stanford in Atlanta at dstanford2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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