May 14, 2009 / 8:07 AM / 9 years ago

Raisio to sell margarine business, shares soar

* Selling to U.S.-based Bunge for 80 mln eur

* To book 42-mln-eur gain on deal

* To focus on grain-based products

* Shares soar up to 15 percent

HELSINKI, May 14 (Reuters) - Finnish food group Raisio (RAIVV.HE) said on Thursday it will sell its margarine business to U.S.-based Bunge Limited (BG.N) to focus on grain-based products, sending its shares to 12-month highs.

Raisio, which produces cereals, feed and processed foods, said the deal was worth 80 million euros ($108.4 million). It will book a gain of 42 million once the sale, which needs regulatory approval, is sealed. Raisio expects this to happen in the third quarter.

“The deal is an important step for Raisio towards focusing on its grain-based business. The transaction will bring Raisio a new, significant ... partner who is looking to develop Benecol and (other) functional foods,” Chief Executive Matti Rihko said in a statement.

Benecol is an active ingredient designed to reduce cholesterol that Raisio adds to margarine and other products.

Rihko said the deal would help Bunge strengthen its position in the Central and Northern European markets.

Raisio shares leapt 9.71 percent to 1.81 euros by 0752 GMT, off gains of up to 15 percent but still outperforming weaker Helsinki peers .OMXHPI and trading at levels last seen in May 2008.

Raisio said it will continue to sell margarine products as Bunge’s partner in Finland, Sweden and Estonia, with its market position and net sales in these countries expected to remain unchanged.

The transaction includes margarine plants in Finland and Poland, with some 330 personnel to transfer to Bunge. Raisio had a staff of 948 at end-March.

Reporting by Yegor Paanukoski; editing by John Stonestreet

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