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Unilever sells Bertolli olive oil business for £500m

LONDON - Unilever has sold its Bertolli olive oil and vinegar business to Grupo SOS, Spain's second largest food group, for €630m (£500m) as part of its disposal of non-core businesses.

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Unilever, the owner of brands including Dove, Persil and Flora, will retain ownership of the Bertolli margarine, pasta sauce and frozen meal brands, while Grupo SOS will take the worldwide licence for oils and vinegars under the Bertolli, Italian Maya, Dante and San Giorgio names.

Last November, Unilever sold off its French cheese brand Boursin to Le Groupe Bel for €400m, as part of the disposal of non-strategic brands with collectively more than €2bn in turnover.

In the same month, it also sold off the US marinades businesses Lawry's and Adolph's to McCormick and Company for €410m.

In a statement, Unilever said that the Bertolli brand remains a priority for the company, with "strong growth plans based on capturing the growing appetite for Mediterranean food products".

Grupo SOS already owns Carbonell, which it claims is the world's biggest olive oil brand.

The combined turnover of Bertolli olive oil and vinegar and the Maya, Dante and San Giorgio businesses was around €380m in 2007.

Vindi Banga, Unilever president for foods, home and personal care, said: "Bertolli is a brand leader in olive oils in Europe, the US and Australia, and we believe that Grupo SOS, with their deep expertise in this category, will further strengthen the business."

In April, Bartle Bogle Hegarty resigned the Bertolli European ad account by mutual agreement, following a seven-year relationship.

Bertolli is currently searching for a new ad agency to handle the European account, which covers the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

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