CHICAGO/AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) - Unilever PLC said Wednesday it agreed to sell its U.S. and Canadian oral care brands to Church & Dwight Co. Inc. in a deal initially worth $104 million that would combine toothpaste brands Mentadent, Pepsodent and Arm & Hammer.
Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer products maker, will receive an additional $5 million to $12 million based on its brands' performance in North America, the companies said.
The deal will continue Unilever's strategy of paring down its brands to focus on its largest products, while Princeton, N.J.-based Church & Dwight would double its dollar sales in the oral care market, according to the companies.
The sale includes the Mentadent brand of toothpaste and toothbrushes, Pepsodent and Aim toothpastes, and exclusive licensing rights to Close-Up toothpaste. Sales of the business for the first six months of 2003 were $61 million.
The oral care lines are dwarfed by industry leaders Colgate and Crest, but fit the profile of smaller businesses Church & Dwight has had success breathing life into, one analyst said.
"For a large company like Unilever, this business is not a big deal," said Joseph Altobello, an analyst at CIBC World Markets. "For a company like Church & Dwight, not only is it a big deal, but any synergies they gain from it are meaningful."
Altobello has rated Church & Dwight, with sales of $504.6 million in the first six months of 2003, a "sector performer."
Unilever, which also makes Lipton teas and Skippy peanut butter, said in a statement it expects the transaction to be completed in the fourth quarter.
Last week, Unilever reached an agreement to sell its Brut line of male personal care products in the Americas.
Church & Dwight, which also makes Arm & Hammer baking soda and Brillo scrubbing pads, said it will move production of the toothpaste brands to its plant in Lakewood, N.J., over the next 12 months.
"Although this business has recently been in decline, we believe the brand equities remain strong, and the business can be revitalized through additional focus and support," Robert Davies III, Church & Dwight chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.
Church & Dwight said it plans to finance the acquisition by increasing an existing medium-term borrowing facility managed by J.P. Morgan.
Church & Dwight shares were up 62 cents, or 1.96 percent, at $32.30 in trading just after midday Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, while Unilever closed up 0.95 percent at 525.50 pence in London.