EU regulators OK Unilever purchase of Sara Lee unit

By Dow Jones Newswires
Posted Nov. 17, 2010 at 6:12 a.m.

The European Commission Wednesday cleared consumer-goods giant Unilever PLC to buy Sara Lee Corp.’s personal care unit, but stipulated that the antitrust approval depends on the sale of Sara Lee’s Sanex bath, shower and deodorants brand in Europe.

The decision follows a five month, in-depth investigation which showed that the combined company would be overwhelmingly dominant in the deodorants sector in a number of countries, including Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, the U.K., Ireland, Spain and Portugal as it would remove an important competitive force.

Anglo-Dutch Unilever, best known for its Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Dove soap and Cif household cleaner, also makes leading deodorant brands Axe, Dove and Rexona. Besides Sanex deodorants, Sara Lee personal care unit makes Radox and Badedas and other well-known names.

“We had to ensure that the transaction would not lead to increased prices for consumers,” the EU’s competition chief Joaquin Almunia said. “As Unilever offered a strong and clear-cut remedy to address the competition concerns in a number of deodorant markets, the commission was able to clear the merger,” he added.

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