Unilever may be considering full purchase of Bertolli

LONDON Unilever is looking at sales and licensing options for Bertolli Italian, a line of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, sources said Wednesday.

According to reports, Unilever is interested in holding on to the Bertolli brand because of successful sales of Bertolli sauces, spreads and snacks. However, the Anglo-Dutch mega-company would most likely parcel off the olive oil refining part of the Bertolli, but maintain the brand name’s license for its own use. Unilever is currently reviewing Bertolli’s business for possible sale of its holdings. However, sources say the company will not rule out keeping Bertolli, if no suitable offers are made.

“We are exploring some strategic partnership opportunities for Bertolli olive oil and vinegar,” one Unilever spokesperson said.

Unilever said last summer it planned to sell slow-growing businesses with more than $3 billion of annual turnover. This plan included selling Boursin French cheese, Lawry’s marinades and spices business, its North American laundry unit and other lesser-growing companies.

Bertolli’s annual sales have been reported at around $465 million. Sources said that Unilever could receive around $310 million from a sale of for its work on the group’s restructuring program. Unilever will announce results of its first-quarter fiscal 2008 today.

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