Nestle looks to sell Jenny Craig as part of divestiture push: sources

NEW YORK/LONDON Tue Oct 8, 2013 5:21pm EDT

A Nestle logo is pictured on a factory in Orbe April 20, 2012. REUTERS/Joao Vieria

A Nestle logo is pictured on a factory in Orbe April 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Joao Vieria

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NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - Nestle (NESN.VX) is looking to sell its Jenny Craig diet business and is speaking to a small group of potential buyers about the brand, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The sources, who declined to be identified as talks are private, said on Tuesday that Nestle was working with Goldman Sachs on the sale process.

Nestle and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

The potential sale comes after the world's largest food group said last week that divesting low-performing businesses was a top strategic priority. CEO Paul Bulcke said that some businesses had been a drag for too long.

Reuters reported last month that Nestle was also looking to divest its PowerBar energy bar business.

Other challenged areas that analysts point to as being ripe for pruning include Nestle's ice cream, frozen foods and water businesses. Liberum Capital suggests that Nestle could also sell its table and cooking sauces business, as well as its stake in L'Oreal cosmetics.

Nestle bought Jenny Craig in 2006 for $600 million from private equity groups ACI Capital and MidOcean Partners as part of its push into nutrition.

The brand, which operates weight loss centers and sells packaged food under the Jenny Craig name, has been hit by the economic slowdown as many consumers have cut back spending on themselves.

Like rival Weight Watchers International (WTW.N), Jenny Craig's business model has also been pressured by an influx of free online and mobile fitness apps that allow consumers to lose weight on their own without spending on diet programs.

In an August earnings call, Nestle Chief Financial Officer Wan Ling Martello said, "We do not disclose profit by businesses, but I will tell you that the Jenny Craig business — this year as well as last year — was very much below our expectations and below what they have been able to do in the last few years."

The brand was founded in 1983 in Australia by Jenny Craig and her husband Sid. Besides Weight Watchers, it competes with Nutrisystem Inc. (NTRI.O), Medifast (MED.N) and Herbalife (HLF.N) and has operations in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and France.

(Reporting by Olivia Oran in New York and Martinne Geller in London; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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