|Sara Lee is selling its North American bakery unit. (Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press)|
PORTLAND, Ore. — Sara Lee Corp. is cutting the apron strings on its struggling North American bread-making business, selling it to Mexican baking giant Grupo Bimbo for $959 million.
The deal makes Grupo Bimbo the largest baker in the United States and marks Sara Lee’s last major planned sale of a business line and completes a series of moves to focus on its more-profitable businesses such Hillshire Farms meat and Senseo coffee.
Sara Lee, based in Downers Grove, Ill., will still sell its signature frozen cheesecake and deli meats.
Grupo Bimbo will have rights to the Sara Lee brand in fresh baked goods globally, excluding Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
It adds to Grupo Bimbo’s presence as one of the world’s largest baking companies. The company, based in Mexico City and traded on the Mexican Stock Exchange, sells brands such as Entenmann’s, Tia Rosa, and Thomas’ baked goods.
Sara Lee’s bakery unit has struggled recently as costs, competition, and intense promotions cut into its performance. Analysts said its operating margins are well below those of its peers.