Consumer giant to sell perfume brands

Consumer goods giant Unilever is to offload a string of famous perfume brands to American cosmetics firm Coty, it announced today.

Consumer goods giant Unilever is to offload a string of famous perfume brands to American cosmetics firm Coty, it announced today.

Unilever, known for everything from Pot Noodles to Dove soap, said it had agreed to sell its cosmetics arm for $800m (€637m).

The deal includes the licences for Calvin Klein, Cerruti, Vera Wang, Chloe and Lagerfield. It is part of Unilever's battle to turn around its fortunes amid difficult market conditions.

Unilever chief executive Patrick Cescau said: "This is an excellent strategic move for Unilever and one that is fully in line with our strategy to focus on our core categories."

The business also includes manufacturing and distribution sites in Lille, France, and New Jersey, and made sales of $600m (€478m) in 2004.

Unilever, whose brands also include Magnum ice cream, Lipton Ice Tea and Hellmann's mayonnaise, launched its five-year Path To Growth strategy in 2000 in a move to concentrate on leading products.

It warned earlier this month that market conditions remained tough in Europe with its home and personal care division suffering a difficult first quarter.

Annual profits slumped 36% to €2.9bn in its last financial year.

The sale of Unilever Cosmetics International is expected to be completed in the coming months, subject to regulatory approval. Staff are to transfer to Coty under the deal.

Shares were 2% higher today, up 11.5p to 548p.

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