ConAgra to buy Unilever's North American frozen foods

Mon Jul 30, 2012 3:16pm EDT

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(Reuters) - ConAgra Foods Inc (CAG.N) struck a deal to buy Unilever Plc's (ULVR.L) (UNc.AS) North American frozen meal business for $265 million, adding the premium Bertolli and P.F. Chang's brands to its frozen foods portfolio.

The deal, announced on Monday, will be ConAgra's fifth bolt-on acquisition in the past 12 months following its spurned effort to buy Ralcorp Holdings RAH.N last year.

Shares of ConAgra, which also owns Hunt's ketchup and Slim Jim meat snacks, rose 2 percent in afternoon trade.

The transaction, expected to close in the third quarter, includes a license to use the Bertolli brand name and the transfer of Unilever's license to use the P.F. Chang's Home Menu brand name, the companies said.

ConAgra already sells frozen meals under the Banquet, Healthy Choice, Marie Callender's and Kid Cuisine brands.

"Just as our acquisition earlier this calendar year of Odom's Tennessee Pride extended our reach into frozen breakfasts, the addition of Bertolli and P.F. Chang's brands can bring us new consumers and new eating occasions," ConAgra Chief Executive Gary Rodkin said in a statement.

Following its failed bid for Ralcorp, ConAgra has bought National Pretzel Co, Del Monte Canada, Odom's Tennessee Pride and the pita chip business of Kangaroo Brands as it seeks to grow its core business and expand into adjacent and private-label businesses.

ConAgra said the deal with Unilever would not alter its fiscal 2013 goals. It stood by its full-year targets, which call for earnings per share to grow 6 percent to 8 percent from the $1.84 it earned in fiscal 2012.

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch maker of Hellmann's mayonnaise, Skippy peanut butter and Wish-Bone salad dressings, is executing a strategy to exit the global frozen foods business. It earlier sold its brands in Europe.

ConAgra shares were up 49 cents to $24.79 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Maureen Bavdek, Matthew Lewis and John Wallace)

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