Unilever to divest majority of European Frozen Food business - Italian Frozen Foods business retained

Unilever today announced that it had decided to put the majority of its Frozen Foods businesses in Europe up for sale. It decided to retain its Frozen Food operations in Italy.

Patrick Cescau, Group Chief Executive, said: “Deciding to put the majority of our European Frozen Food business up for sale has been a tough call. It has been a successful business for us over many years, we’ve built some great brands for consumers with memorable advertising, and they’ve created real value for our shareholders.

"However, although we have made great progress in increasing profitability in recent years growth has been harder to come by. After an exhaustive review we have decided that the best way for us to create value is by selling the majority of the European Frozen Food businesses."

Unilever's review, which was announced in September 2005, looked at all the possibilities for the business. The review concluded that a strategy to grow the businesses would not deliver satisfactory value for Unilever. Unilever concluded that its great frozen food brands could prosper better under other ownership and that divestment was the best option. It also concluded that now was a good time to consider divestment as it would be likely to lead the expected future consolidation in the frozen food sector.

The Italian Frozen Food business will continue to operate as part of the Unilever business.

Patrick Cescau said: "We believe it is right to retain the Italian Frozen Food business because it is inherently an attractive business with good growth prospects. It has a good track record, has strong leadership positions and is strategically important in a number of ways. It is our biggest single business in Italy and its retention plays an important role in future trade relations in that country. It is also an important source of innovation and technology in the attractive frozen meals segment that is proving so successful in the US."

Over time Unilever has bought and sold many businesses and factories and has built up vast experience of managing people issues both sensitively and professionally. It is acutely aware of the people issues and is committed to working with the relevant employee representatives in the countries affected.

Unilever's intention is to sell the business if the price is right, in whole or in part, as going concerns. 

Notes to Editors:

  • The intended sale includes the total frozen food portfolio under the well-known Iglo and Birds Eye brands
  • Unilever has a frozen foods portfolio in 11 countries:  Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom
  • There are five sourcing units:
    Cisterna  - Italy
    Reken & Bremerhaven  - Germany
    Lowestoft & Hull  - UK
  • Total turnover is approximately €2 billion
  • The Bertolli branded frozen side dishes business in the USA will be continued
  • Around 3 500 people work in this area across Europe, excluding Italy
  • The decision does not affect Ice cream which is a strategic priority for Unilever and will be continued 

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