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 this transaction. 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 Oils business. "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 of 1995: 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, email@example.com Deborah Welch, ACH Food Companies, 901.381.3203, firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.achfood.com 7171 Goodlett Farms Parkway Memphis, TN 38018 MAKE YOUR OPINION COUNT - Click Here http://tbutton.prnewswire.com/prn/11690X43735772
SOURCE ACH Food Companies, Inc.