Campbell Soup Co. has thought for a while that V-8 juice and high-priced, premium-quality chocolate don't particularly go well together, and yesterday it announced a deal to sell its Godiva Chocolatier Inc. unit to a Turkish candy- and cookie-maker.
The Camden company said it agreed to sell Godiva, a holdover from the days when it was a more diversified food company, to Yildiz Holding A.S., based in Istanbul, for $850 million. Campbell, which has owned Godiva since 1974, put it up for sale in August, saying it wanted to concentrate on making V-8, soup and snacks.
Godiva will be part of Yildiz's Ulker Group, which Campbell said in a statement was Turkey's largest consumer-goods company and which makes chocolate, candy, cookies, and other food and beverages. Ulker has sales of $7.4 billion a year, Campbell said.
Ulker, which has no operations now in North America or Western Europe, is expected to continue to make Godiva chocolates at its plant in Reading, and in Brussels, Belgium, Campbell spokesman Anthony Sanzio said. The Reading plant employs about 480 people.
Douglas R. Conant, Campbell's president and chief executive officer, said in the statement that the sale would allow the company to "sharpen our strategic focus on simple meals, anchored by soup, baked snacks, and vegetable-based beverages."
Conant said the company was "very pleased" with the $850 million sales price. Godiva has annual sales of about $500 million, he said. The sale price was 15 times Godiva's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, the company said.
Shortly after the company said it wanted to sell Godiva, Bloomberg News reported it was seeking $1 billion to $1.5 billion, but Sanzio said the company had never revealed an amount it was looking for.
Campbell is making a push to sell more of its broths in China and Russia, and it has decided to invest more of its assets in that business, Sanzio said.
Godiva, which was based in Brussels when Campbell bought it 33 years ago, joined a diverse lineup of products, including seafood, frozen dinners, pickles, salad dressing and pet food. Most of those businesses already had been sold when Campbell spun off Swanson frozen foods, Vlasic pickles, and several other businesses into Vlasic Foods International Inc. in 1998.
At the time Campbell said it wanted to sell Godiva, Mitchell B. Pinheiro, a food-industry analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott L.L.C. in Center City, called it a bullish sign. Campbell has strong growth opportunities in its core businesses, including low-sodium soups and products for China and Russia, Pinheiro said.
Campbell's earnings this fall have been hurt by rising prices for energy and commodities. In its first quarter, which ended Oct. 28, its profit from continuing operations was flat, at $270 million, compared with $269 million a year earlier. Its revenue increased in the quarter to $2.3 billion from $2.2 billion in the same year-earlier period.
Campbell announced the agreement to sell Godiva after the U.S. stock market closed. Its shares closed at $36.10, down 30 cents yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange.