Unilever PLC (NYSE: UL) is reportedly in search of a buyer for its North American peanut butter brand Skippy. The consumer goods giant has hired Lazard Ltd. (NYSE: LAZ) to help conduct the sale, which is expected to fetch $300 million to $400 million.
In the year that ended on September 29, Skippy had revenue of $300 million and 18.1% of the peanut butter market in the United States, though that excludes sales at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT). That is second to J.M. Smucker Co.'s (NYSE: SJM) Jif brand, which held 34% of the market during that period.
Thought Unilever is not exiting the food business altogether, the company is reducing some of its food assets in order to focus more on its core health and beauty offerings. In August, ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE: CAG) agreed to acquire the Bertolli and P.F. Chang's brands from Unilever for $265 million. Unilever previously divested its European frozen foods business.
Unilever's food business, which includes brands such as Hellmann's mayonnaise and Ragu pasta sauce, was responsible for 30% of the company's sales last year and 39% of adjusted operating profit. But in 2011, food was Unilever's only segment to post a decline in sales by volume.
Shares of Unilever are up less than 1% in premarket trading to $37.07, in a 52-week range of $30.60 to $37.39. Analysts polled by Thomson/First Call have a mean price target of only $36.93 on the shares.
Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Food Tagged: CAG, LAZ, SJM, UL, WMT