updated 8/28/2006 9:16:50 AM ET 2006-08-28T13:16:50

Consumer products maker Unilever NV/PLC said Monday it has reached a deal to sell the bulk of its European frozen foods businesses, including the Iglo and Birds Eye brands, to private equity investor Permira Advisors LLP for about $2.21 billion.

Chief Executive Patrick Cescau reiterated in a statement that Unilever was selling the businesses in order to focus on others it considers more central to its portfolio.

Unilever, which makes products like Dove soaps and Lipton teas, said the deal excludes ice-cream products — such as Ben & Jerry’s — and its Italian operations.

Unilever said the businesses being sold had operating profits of 174 million euros in 2005 on sales of 1.24 billion euros.

Unilever, with dual headquarters in Amsterdam and London, said in February it intended to sell the operations. In May, Unilever reported a 6 percent rise in net profit to $1.26 billion, with revenues up 9 percent to $12.2 billion.

Shares in Unilever, which also makes Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, Knorr soups, Bertolli olive oil and Axe deodorants, rose 0.7 percent to 18.49 euros ($23.60) in early trading in Amsterdam.

Since 2000, Unilever has bet heavily on its biggest brands, weeding out its top 400 from more than 1,500 and spending more on advertising those that remain.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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