MEMPHIS, April 23 /PRNewswire/ -- ACH Food Companies, Inc., a subsidiary
of Associated British Foods plc (ABF) (OTC: ASBFY) today announced that it has
signed a definitive agreement to purchase Unilever's (NYSE: UN, UL) Mazola
branded cooking oil and corn products business in the United States, Canada
and Puerto Rico for $360 million in cash. The transaction is expected to be
completed in the third quarter of 2002, subject to regulatory approvals. J.P.
Morgan Securities, Inc., acted as the exclusive financial advisor to ACH on
As a result of this transaction ACH will acquire leading consumer brands
including Mazola cooking oil, Argo and Kingsford's corn starch, Karo and
Golden Griddle syrups, Henri's salad dressings and a number of related
Canadian Brands. In addition ACH is acquiring a manufacturing facility in
Illinois, and equipment in New Jersey and Puerto Rico.
Canadian brands to be acquired include Benson's and Canada corn starches,
St. Lawrence/St. Laurent corn oil, Crown and BeeHive corn syrups, Old Colony
maple syrup and Old Tyme pancake syrup.
Mazola is the number one brand of corn oil in the United States and has
been a leader in the salad and cooking oils category since 1911. The Argo,
Kingsford's and Karo brands have been category leaders since the early 1900s.
The acquisition further strengthens ACH's position as a leading North American
player in vegetable oils.
The brands being acquired had combined net sales of $310 million in 2001.
In total, approximately 200 employees will be transferred to ACH Food
Companies, Inc., mostly from a manufacturing facility in Argo, Illinois.
ACH, which had combined sales of approximately $740 million in 2001, is
also a leading player in the branded foodservice oil sector following its
acquisition last year of Procter & Gamble's U.S. Foodservice Shortening and
"We are continuing to implement our strategy of establishing leading
branded positions in each of our food channels," ACH CEO Dan Antonelli said.
"This acquisition gives us a platform to expand into retail branded products
in our key product categories."
ACH is also a leader in private label (store brand) vegetable oils in the
U.S. This acquisition, which will be fully integrated into ACH's operations,
further strengthens its retail position by adding the leading corn oil brand
to its portfolio.
"ACH has good relationships with the Retail Trade," said Antonelli.
"Historically, we have differentiated ourselves in the private label sector
through our solid trade relationships, high service levels, efficient
distribution system and packaging innovations."
ACH is well positioned to add value to the newly acquired brands. "We
have most of the infrastructure in place to manage these businesses very
efficiently," Antonelli said. "To give one example, we will have the ability
to combine our private label distribution with that of the acquired
businesses, enabling our retail partners to receive more full truckloads and
improve management of their inventory."
With 8 plants across the United States, ACH Food Companies, Inc., markets
a broad range of products to the retail grocery, foodservice and food
processor segments. These products include specialty shortenings and
oil-based products, specialty rice products, non-dairy spray dried products
and cheeses, spray dried savory ingredients and ingredient systems. ACH is a
subsidiary of London-based Associated British Foods (ABF), an international
food, ingredients and retail group with 2001 sales of $6.5 billion and
34,000 employees. Visit ACH on the Web at http://www.achfood.com.
Safe Harbor Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act
This press release contains certain "forward-looking" statements within
the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These
statements are based on management's current expectations and are naturally
subject to uncertainty and changes in circumstances. Actual results may vary
materially from the expectations contained herein. The forward-looking
statements contained herein include statements about future financial and
operating results and benefits of ACH Food Companies' pending acquisition of
the food brands from Unilever.
Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those
described therein include: the inability to obtain or delay in obtaining
necessary antitrust approvals; actions of the U.S., Canadian and local
governments; the performance of the businesses of these  food brands
during the pre-closing period; costs related to the disposal; the economic and
financial market environment of the food and consumer product manufacturing
industry and the general economic environment. More detailed information
about these factors is set forth in the reports furnished by Unilever with the
Securities and Exchange Commission.
Neither ACH Food Companies, Inc., nor Unilever is under any obligation to
(and expressly disclaims any such obligation to) update or alter its
forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future
events or otherwise
Contacts: Gary Bridgman, archer>malmo, 901.260.4124,
Deborah Welch, ACH Food Companies, 901.381.3203,
7171 Goodlett Farms Parkway
Memphis, TN 38018
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SOURCE ACH Food Companies, Inc.