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Campbell Negotiating to Sell European Business

Mon, 08/12/2013 - 12:24pm

NEW YORK (AP) — Campbell Soup says it is in final negotiations to sell its European business to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum, the latest move by CEO Denise Morrison to reshape the company.

The proposed sale includes the company's soups, sauces and other products that are sold under a variety of names in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany and Sweden. The deal, which is not yet final, doesn't include products in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Middle East or Africa, or the export of its Pepperidge Farm baked goods.

The announcement is just the latest structural change for the soup maker since Morrison took over two years ago. Morrison has vowed to right the company's struggling canned soup business in the U.S. and has been moving to diversify with the type of fresher products that are growing in popularity.

Campbell Soup Co. recently purchased Bolthouse Farms, which makes premium juices, salad dressings and baby carrots, as well as Plum Organics, which makes food for babies and kids.

The company noted that the proposed sale of the European brands, which includes four plants, is subject to regulatory approvals.

"It's not a definitive agreement, therefore we can't provide any more detail," said Carla Burigatto, a Campbell representative. She did not immediately know whether any of the company's namesake products are sold in the countries named in the deal.

Campbell, based in Camden, New Jersey, says the brands included in the deal generate annual sales of $530 million. That represents about 7 percent of the company's net sales last year. Among the brands being sold are Devos Lemmens and Royco in Belgium, Liebig and Royco in France, Erasco in Germany and Bia Band in Sweden.

Campbell's European business is based in Belgium and employs around 1,300 people, according to CVC Capital.

Campbell said deal would be expected to close in the first quarter of its fiscal 2014.

Its stock was down almost 1 percent at $47.35. Shares are up almost 39 percent over the past year.

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