Reckitt Benckiser reviewing options for food business

LONDON (Reuters) - British consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser RB.L is reviewing strategic options for its small food business, it said on Monday, as it seeks to pay down debt following its planned $16.6 billion purchase of Mead Johnson MJN.N.

A sale of the business, which includes French’s mustard and Frank’s RedHot sauce, could fetch more than 2.4 billion pounds ($3 billion), British newspaper The Sunday Times reported.

The company said the food subsidiary was not one of its core businesses and that it would update the market when appropriate.

The food brands, which had 2016 sales of 411 million pounds and like-for-like growth of 5 percent, could fit into the portfolios of other firms, such as Heinz ketchup maker Kraft-Heinz KHC.O or Hellmann's mayonnaise maker Unilever ULVR.L.

Those companies are both in the spotlight following Kraft’s failed bid for Unilever in February. Unilever is also due to announce the results of a strategic review in the coming weeks that could include the sale of some of its food brands.

Reckitt’s food business has long been seen by analysts as a possible candidate for sale, given the company’s increasing focus on consumer health products such as Durex condoms, Nurofen tablets and Strepsils throat lozenges.

Reckitt said in February it would buy baby formula maker Mead Johnson, in a surprise deal that gives it a new product line and boosts its business in developing markets.

Editing by Susan Thomas and David Clarke