A fierce bidding war drove up the price of Unilever's Bestfoods bakery subsidiary which has been sold for more than £1bn this week. The bakery division, which went to Canada's George Weston for US$1.77bn (£1.2bn), is best known for the Entenmann's and Thomas English muffins brands. It was put on the market in October when Unilever bought US rival Bestfoods. George Weston is to sell its Neilson dairy business and Connors Bros canned sardines and aquaculture company to finance the purchase. It is also cutting its stake in Canada's Loblaws supermarket chain from 63% to 58%. Analyst Andy Smith from Schroder Salomon Smith Barney said: "The sale price was higher than expected. There was intense interest among buyers as Bestfoods Baking Company is one of the best US bakeries. "Sara Lee and Bimbo, a Mexican based baker looking to enter the US market, were in the frame." Bestfoods Baking Company, which employs about 12,000 people at 19 plants in the US, last year made a profit before tax and interest of £97m on sales of £1.2bn. One analyst said: "Unilever's strategic plan is to focus on reinvigorating growth by selling off businesses with slower rates of return." {{NEWS }}

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