NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sara Lee Corp sharesjumped nearly 8 percent Monday after The New York Postreported that the foodmaker received an unsolicited offer fromprivate equity firm KKR Co and could arouse theinterest of Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever.
KKR approached the maker of Sara Lee bread and Jimmy Deansausages about six weeks ago in what could have been a $12billion deal, the newspaper reported, citing a person familiarwith the matter. Sara Lee's board rebuffed the offer, thereport said.
Sara Lee shares rose $1.05 to $14.48. Based on theirclosing price on Friday, Sara Lee had a market value of about$8.59 billion.
Sara Lee and KKR declined to comment. Unilever did notimmediately respond to requests for a comment about thereport.
Morningstar equity analysts said Sara Lee would make anattractive buyout target, given its free cash flow and lowdebt. The company's management team is also in transition afterCEO Brenda Barnes suffered a stroke in May and officiallystepped down in August.
"KKR may consider this a window of opportunity,"Morningstar said. "We would expect a private equity acquirer tosell off underperforming brands, such as the bakery business,separately."
Marcel Smits, who had been Sara Lee's chief financialofficer, is filling in for Barnes while the company seeks apermanent CEO.
Smits used to be the CFO of Vendex KBB, now known asMaxeda, a Dutch retail group. KKR led a buyout of Vendex in2004, the same year Smits moved to Dutch telecommunicationscompany Koninklijke KPNNV .
The Post article, citing sources, also said Unilever wouldbe interested in Sara Lee if it were not required to take thebakery division, which has struggled with fierce pricecompetition.
Sara Lee was quietly seeking buyers for its bread unit,sources told Reuters in July. But at a September analystmeeting, company executives said they planned to spend moremoney on the business with a focus on raising prices for theproducts it sells. (Reporting by Martinne Geller and Phil Wahba; Editing by DerekCaney, Dave Zimmerman)