Unilever is back on the acquisition trail and is well placed to capitalise on the wave of M&A activity widely expected to hit the sector next year.

This is the message from Unilever UK chairman Dave Lewis after the company snapped up Sara Lee's personal care business for 1.3bn (£1.18bn).

Under the deal, which is still subject to regulatory approval and is set to be completed early next year, Unilever will add brands such as Sanex, Radox and Brylcreem to its personal care portfolio, which includes Dove and Lynx.

"This deal confirms we are back on the buying trail," said Lewis. "When you think of Unilever in the past 10 years, probably 90% of the stories were about us disposing of businesses."

Lewis said the deal would significantly strengthen its business in Western Europe and that it was on the lookout for other opportunities. Experts have predicted a major increase in mergers and acquisitions next year as more companies struggle with cashflow and an expected rise in interest rates.

Lewis said the Sara Lee business was a perfect fit for Unilever as it complemented its brands and took care of a weakness in its value offering. Sanex and Radox are lower-priced lines compared with the mid-priced Dove brand.

"We will now be able to offer brands across the full spectrum of the price piano in the UK market," he said.