Nestle SA (NSRGY shares rose the most in more than a month Friday after the world's biggest food company said it may sell its U.S. confectionery business.
The Swiss consumer goods giant will explore strategic options for its U.S. confectionery business, it said Thursday after markets closed in Switzerland. The unit could be worth as much as $3 billion, according to some analysts, with Jefferies putting the price tag between $1.5 billion and $2 billion.
Nestle's US confectionery business had sales of around Sfr900 million ($923 million) in 2016. It primarily includes chocolate brands such as Butterfinger, BabyRuth, 100Grand, SkinnyCow, Raisinets, Chunky, OhHenry! and SnoCaps, as well as local sugar brands such as SweeTarts, LaffyTaffy, Nerds, FunDip, PixyStix, Gobstopper, BottleCaps, Spree and Runts. It also comprises the international chocolate brand Crunch.
The review is expected to be completed by the of the year and does not include Nestle's Toll House baking products, "a strategic growth brand which the company will continue to develop in the U.S. market," it said.
Nestle shares rose were up 1.67% in Zurich, the biggest gain since May 4, to change hands at Sfr82.35, extending a 6.11% gain over the past three months.
Nestle said it remains committed to the U.S., with sales of Sfr26.7 billion in 2016, the U.S. is its largest market. The confectionary business represents just 3% of U.S. sales.
Nestle products can be found in 97% of U.S. households, it said, under brands such as Purina, Nestle Pure Life, Coffee-Mate, Gerber and Stouffer's.
Jefferies analyst Martin Deboo expects interest from tertiary players and private equity, but would not rule out a consolidating move by Hershey (HSY - Get Report) or Mars, he wrote in a Thursday note.
"Hershey and Mars have 25% & 22% of the combined US chocolate and sugar market respectively," Deboo wrote. "Nestle has 6%. Mondelez has 4% ex. gum. We would expect the FTC to scrutinize chocolate and sugar separately, as the competitive structures are different."