May 22 - Unilever steps closer to achieving its North American restructuring with the sale of pasta sauce brands Ragu and Bertolli to Mizkan of Japan. David Pollard reports.
Go to a supermarket, chances are you'll buy Unilever. It says two billion people use products under its 400 brands every day. Two of those brands will no longer be on that list. Pasta sauces Ragu and Bertolli have been snapped by Mizkan of Japan. For a tasty 2.15 billion dollars in cash. Joe Rundle of ETX Capital says the move was expected. SOUNDBITE (English) JOE RUNDLE, HEAD OF TRADING, ETX, SAYING: ''It was beginning to get touted. I think it's probably a good reshape, shake-up of their portfolio. So it should be good for the stock.'' The Anglo-Dutch firm wanted to restructure its North American food business. That's now close to being done. It's already sold Skippy peanut butter and Wishbone salad dressings- and Peperami in Europe - and plans to divest its troubled Slimfast brand. The emphasis now is on higher-margin products such as Dove soap and Sunsilk shampoo. Especially in higher-growth emerging markets. SOUNDBITE (English) JOE RUNDLE, HEAD OF TRADING, ETX, SAYING: ''It's interesting that we're seeing Japanese buyers coming in and snapping up assets. But Unilever can now move on from this now and focus on its core business.'' Mizkan is travelling in the opposite direction. It wants to diversify out of Japan. It's bought up traditional favourites like Branston pickle and Sarsons vinegar over the last few years. The latest deal now also giving it a bigger US footprint.