Back in September last year, Unilever agreed to buy the Sara Lee businesses for €1.275bn, although the deal is subject to approval from various regulatory authorities worldwide, as well as European works councils.
The acquisition concerns a portfolio of more than 90 brands that span 19 countries, including the personal care brands Sanex, Radox and Duschadas.
The European Commission is currently investigating the acquisition, and this is now expected to move to Phase 2 of the approval process, which will involve a more detailed analysis of its impact.
In a statement released by Unilever, it was said that the Commission needed more time to determine ‘the full implications of the deal from a competition perspective on particular European markets’.
The company stated it welcomes the opportunity to engage more fully with the Commission’s competition authorities.
Accelerating growth in Western Europe
Unilever reported a strong rise in its first quarter profits for 2010 which it said was mainly driven by a strong sales performance in its personal care division.
Group sales were up 4.1 per cent in underlying terms to €10.14bn, while sales volumes were up by 7.6 per cent and pricing up 3.3 per cent.
The company said it expects the addition of the Sara Lee body care brands to build on its strong position in personal care, as well as being a good fit with its existing brand portfolio.
"Personal care is a strategic category and a key growth driver for Unilever. The Sara Lee brands enjoy strong consumer recognition, offer significant growth potential and are an excellent fit with Unilever's existing business," commented Unilever CEO, Paul Polman back in September.
Sara Lee is divesting the businesses in order to focus on its food and beverage portfolio, and recently announced the sale of its air care business to Procter & Gamble and insecticides business to India-based Godrej Consumer Products.