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Sara Lee selling business unit to S.C. Johnson

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — Sara Lee Corp. said today it is selling the remaining interest in its insecticide unit to S.C. Johnson & Son Inc.

The binding offer from the privately held maker of Raid and Off! is worth about $188 million.

In May, Sara Lee completed the sale of its 51 percent stake in a joint venture in India that makes insecticides. In fiscal 2009, the Godrej Sara Lee joint venture had sales of about $112 million based on that year’s exchange rates.

The company, known for its namesake breads and Hillshire Farm deli meats, has been selling off parts of its international businesses to focus on its food and beverage products. It has already sold its personal-care business to Unilever NV and is selling its Ambi Pure air freshener business to Procter & Gamble Co.

The company said, to date, it expects to generate pretax sales proceeds of about $2.37 billion, from the deals at current currency conversion rates. The entire unit generated revenue of about $2 billion last fiscal year.

Sara Lee interim CEO Marcel Smits said the deal moves Sara Lee closer to focusing exclusively on its more competitive food and beverage businesses. The company noted it continues to receive “strong interest” in the rest of its household business, which includes cleaning brands found outside of Europe, and shoe care.

The deal with SC Johnson, based in Racine, Wis., should close by the end of the year. SC Johnson CEO Fisk Johnson said the company is pleased to expand its pest control business around the world. The unit’s brands, such as Bloom and Catch, are sold in 41 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and Russia. The deal is subject to regulatory approval.

Smits is filling in for CEO Brenda Barnes, who the company announced yesterday was recovering from a stroke. Last month the company said Barnes, 56, would take a temporary medical leave but declined to specify the reason. Barnes said in a statement yesterday she wanted to provide details about her situation and said she was recuperating. The company plans to provide another update on her condition by its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call on Aug. 12.

Sara Lee also said in its news release today that it plans to maintain and gradually increase its dividend, currently set at 44 cents annually.

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