McCormick gets OK on Lawry's

But FTC says to sell Season-All business

July 31, 2008|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,Sun reporter

Spice maker McCormick & Co. has been given regulatory approval to complete its $604 million cash acquisition of Lawry's seasoning company, but must sell its Season-All business because of competitive concerns.

The Sparks-based company said yesterday that the Federal Trade Commission had granted conditional approval for it to buy Lawry's from Conopco Inc., an indirect subsidiary of Unilever. McCormick announced the deal in November.

An FTC spokesman said the agency was concerned that McCormick would control too much of the $100 million seasoned salt segment if it were to keep Season-All in addition to Lawry's Seasoned Salt. Seasoned salts blend salt with various herbs and spices.

"If they combine the two, they would have 80 percent of the U.S. market for branded seasoned salts," FTC spokesman Mitchell J. Katz said.

McCormick said yesterday that it has also already agreed to sell the Season-All business to the Morton Salt Group of Morton International for $15 million. Seasonal-All sales are about $18 million, or less than 1 percent of McCormick's annual sales.

Chief executive Alan D. Wilson would not comment on details on the deal pending completion of the acquisition, which could happen today. The Season-All sale to Morton is expected to be completed at the same time.

"We see great opportunities, and we'll be in a position to discuss them after the acquisition is completed in the coming days," Wilson said.

The company will discuss its plans for Lawry's after the deal closes. McCormick officials have said in the past that Lawry's product lines would be manufactured in Hunt Valley and could result in new jobs.

Season-All is also made in Hunt Valley, but a spokesman said jobs won't be eliminated because the company is getting more business with Lawry's.

About 65 percent of Lawry's sales are seasoning blends sold under the Lawry's and Adolph's names at grocery stores and other retail outlets. Another 23 percent are wet marinades, while the remaining sales are to food service customers.

Shares of McCormick rose $1.02 yesterday to close at $40.95, a 52-week high.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

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