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Brussels, 17 November 2010

Mergers: Commission clears Unilever's proposed acquisition of Sara Lee Household and Body Care business, subject to conditions

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the planned acquisition by the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever of the body and laundry care businesses of Sara Lee Corp of the US, subject to conditions. The Commission's in-depth investigation, confirmed competition concerns in a number of deodorants markets. To remedy these concerns, the merging parties offered to divest Sara Lee's Sanex brand and related business in Europe. In light of these commitments, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it. The Commission's decision is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments.

Commission Vice President in charge of Competition Policy Joaquín Almunia said: “We had to ensure that the transaction would not lead to increased prices for consumers. As Unilever offered a strong and clear-cut remedy to address the competition concerns in a number of deodorant markets, the Commission was able to clear the merger."

Unilever supplies a wide range of branded consumer goods. In the personal care sector where there were overlaps with Sara Lee, it is particularly strong in deodorants with its leading brands Axe, Dove and Rexona, present all across Europe. Sara Lee supplies deodorants under the Sanex brand in a number of European countries. Its personal care business also includes other brands such as Radox, Duschdas, Badedas or Monsavon.

The Commission's in-depth investigation has shown that the merger would give Unilever a very strong leadership position in a number of deodorants markets by combining the parties' brands, most notably Sanex with Dove and with Rexona which presently compete against each other. The Commission found that the merger, as initially notified, would raise competition concerns in Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain and Portugal where it would remove an important competitive force and would likely have led to price increases.

With a view to removing the Commission's concerns, the merging parties made the commitment to divest Sara Lee's Sanex brand and related business in Europe. This offers a clear and workable remedy, sufficient to restore competition in all markets where the Commission had concerns.

The proposed acquisition was notified to the Commission on 21 April. On 31 May the Commission opened and in-depth investigation over fears it would harm consumers by giving the merged too much power in a number of product markets. (see IP/10/640),

A non-confidential version of the decision will be available at: :

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