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Unilever to Sell Its Italian Frozen Food Businesses

April 26 (Bloomberg) -- Unilever, the world’s second-biggest consumer products company, will seek a buyer for its Findus frozen food business in Italy as it shifts away from local labels to focus on international brands.

Selling Findus, which has annual sales of more than 450 million euros ($599 million), would allow the company to boost “investment in brands which will deliver higher levels of growth and shareholder value,” James Hill, chairman of Unilever Italy, said in a statement today.

With the divestment, Unilever will shed its last non-ice cream frozen food business in Europe. Unilever plans to sell more personal-care products in Europe following its acquisition of Sara Lee Corp.’s Sanex and other soap brands. Four years ago, the maker of Flora spreads and Axe deodorants sold its Iglo and Birds Eye frozen food brands in countries including Germany and France to Permira Advisers LLP.

Permira paid 1.4 times sales for the Iglo and Birds Eye brands. In 2008, private equity firm Lion Capital LLP valued Capvest Ltd.’s frozen seafood operations at a price equivalent to sales. Blackstone Group LP’s Pinnacle Foods Group LLC bought Birds Eye Foods Inc. in the U.S. last year for 1.4 times revenue.

Founded as a canned fruit and liqueur factory in Sweden in 1905, Findus was purchased by Nestle SA, the world’s biggest food maker, in 1963. Unilever in 1985 bought Nestle’s stake in a joint venture the two companies had started in 1963 to sell frozen foods and ice cream in Germany and Austria under the Iglo brand and in Italy under the Findus name.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeroen Molenaar in Amsterdam jmolenaar1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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