Nestle hires Rothschild for LatAm assets sale-report

ZURICH Wed Jan 9, 2013 9:29am GMT

The headquarters of food giant Nestle is pictured in Vevey August 8, 2012. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The headquarters of food giant Nestle is pictured in Vevey August 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

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ZURICH (Reuters) - Nestle has hired Rothschild to help sell Latin American assets valued at over $1 billion, as part of a drive to win regulatory approval for its purchase of Pfizer's nutrition unit, Bloomberg said, citing three people with knowledge of the matter.

The Vevey-based maker of Nescafe coffee, KitKat chocolate bars and Maggi soup is in the early stages of a process to sell the assets, the news agency said, citing one of the three people.

Nestle (NESN.VX) said on Wednesday it did not comment on asset sales and ongoing regulatory processes. Rothschild did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Nestle agreed to buy Pfizer's (PFE.N) baby food business for $11.85 billion last April, beating out French rival Danone (DANO.PA) in the battle for dominance of fast-growing emerging markets.

Analysts have said the company may have to sell up to 30 percent of the Pfizer businesses, including those in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, as part of a regulatory approval process which may take up to 12 months.

"According to my assumptions they will have to make divestments in Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia because the combined market share is well over 50 percent in those markets," said Jon Cox, head of Swiss research at Kepler Capital Markets.

He said Mead Johnson (MJN.N), Heinz HNZ.N and Danone (DANO.PA) would all likely be interested in the assets. "I assume Nestle would try and organise a bit of a bidding war to maximise some of the revenues from those deals," he said.

Mexican competition regulators blocked the deal in November saying the combined group would have too dominant a share of the domestic baby food market, which could hurt consumers. A sale by Nestle of some assets in the country could change their mind.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Mark Potter)

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