UPDATE 1-Campbell to exit Australian snack food business

Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:35pm EDT

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CHICAGO, April 28 (Reuters) - Campbell Soup Co (CPB.N) said on Monday it would sell its Australian snack foods business and close a plant in Canada as it looks to cut costs and focus on core businesses such as its namesake soup.

The company also said it would stop making private label biscuits and industrial chocolate at its Miranda, Australia, facility and plans to close that plant, which employs 150 people.

Campbell's expects to take charges related to the actions of about $230 million combined in the third and fourth quarters of fiscal 2008. The company said it expected the moves to start to modestly boost earnings in fiscal year 2009.

The plant in Listowel, Ontario, Canada, employs about 500 people and makes frozen products, including soup, entrees and Pepperidge Farm products, as well as ramen noodles. Campbell said it would continue operating the plant for 12 months and then transfer production to contract manufacturers and its own Downingtown, Pennsylvania, facility.

On the snacks business, Campbell said it has reached an agreement to sell the business to a group of Australian investors, including senior management of The Real McCoy, an Australian owned snack foods company. The deal would include the Cheezels, Thins, Tasty Jacks, French Fries, and Kettle Chips brands, as well as two plants.

Campbell has been taking steps to focus on products like soup, Pepperidge Farms baked goods and V8 juice. Earlier this year, it completed the sales of the Godiva chocolate business to Yidliz Holding A.S., the owner of the Ulker (ULKER.IS) Group, Turkey's largest food company. (Reporting by Brad Dorfman; Editing by Andre Grenon and Gunna Dickson)

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