Smithfield buys Sara Lee's European meats arm

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sara lee Pork Sales

Following a month of negotiations, Sara Lee has agreed the sale of
its European meats business to Smithfield for $575m (€457.6m), as
both firms reposition themselves in the marketplace.

Smithfield, the largest US meat processor, already operates in Romania, France, Poland and Spain, and will combine these existing operations with the new purchase.

Sara Lee's meat arm enjoyed sales of $1.1bn (€860.8m) in 2005 and holds strong positions in France, Benelux and Portugal. But the anticipated selling price of the division fell in April, as several non-binding bids forced the figure down.

The sale represents the latest management move to reduce the Sara Lee portfolio. Last year the company offloaded its European clothing business and the US retail coffee arm.

The divestures form part of a company overhaul announced in February that will see Sara Lee axe businesses accounting for a total of 40 per cent of earnings.

"The sale of the European meats business is the latest example of simplifying our portfolio as we transform Sara Lee into a world-class, integrated operating company,"​ said Sara Lee chairman Brenda Barnes.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the firm diversified widely, resulting in a business portfolio that strayed a long way from its core cake-making activity. As well as clothes, coffee, cosmetics, toiletries, shoe polish and air freshener, Sara Lee's expansion resulted in operations that many industry experts said provided no or very little room for all-important synergies.

American firm Smithfield employs 51,000 people worldwide and has extensive hog production and pork processing operations across Europe, and has joint ventures in China and Mexico. The company's international sales last year topped $1bn.

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