Nestle to sell Gerber Life Insurance unit for $1.55 billion

FILE PHOTO: The Nestle logo is seen during the opening of the 151st Annual General Meeting of Nestle in Lausanne, Switzerland April 12, 2018. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo

(Reuters) - Nestle NESN.S said on Monday it would sell its Gerber Life Insurance unit to Western and Southern Financial Group for $1.55 billion in cash, helping the company to focus on its core food and beverage and consumer health businesses.

Nestle, which has been seeing slowing sales due to broader consumer shift toward healthy foods, had been reviewing its portfolio to get rid of underperforming brands while also buying and launching new products and brands to address these challenges.

“This move is part of the ongoing evolution of our portfolio,” Nestle Chief Executive Mark Schneider said in a statement.

Swiss-based Nestle has also been under pressure from hedge fund Third Point, which asked for a bolder and faster overhaul of the world’s biggest food group.

The company announced in February that it was exploring strategic options for its Gerber Life Insurance unit.

The deal will allow Cincinnati, Ohio-based Western & Southern Financial Group to market insurance products under the Gerber Life brand, which had annual sales of $856 million in 2017.

Reporting by Soundarya J in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Maju Samuel