PITTSBURGH -- H.J. Heinz Company today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to sell its Auckland, New Zealand subsidiary, Tegel Foods, to Pacific Equity Partners. Headquartered in Sydney, Australia, PEP is a major Australasian private equity firm.

Tegel Foods is a leading processor of fresh poultry and animal feeds. It markets Tegel(R) brand chilled and frozen chicken and turkey products and operates processing plants, feed mills and livestock operations throughout New Zealand.

Tegel was purchased by Heinz in 1992 as part of a transaction to acquire Wattie's, a food-product company that's been in business since 1934 in New Zealand.

William R. Johnson, Heinz chairman, president and CEO, said: "The company is making very good progress in accomplishing its objective of divesting non-core businesses and expects that total proceeds from all non-core divestitures will approximate $1 billion. The divestiture of Tegel Foods represents another important step in executing our strategic plan to focus on core categories in which Heinz has unique strengths, namely condiments & sauces; meals & snacks; and infant nutrition.

"Tegel(R) is a strong brand and a company with excellent management, but the poultry business is not aligned with our strategic focus," Johnson said. "Heinz remains committed to the core New Zealand market with its strong Wattie's(R) business."

Heinz executives discussed the potential sale of a number of non-core businesses, including Tegel, during meetings and conference calls with investors in August, September and November. Heinz has completed the divestitures of HAK(R) vegetables in the Netherlands and its seafood business in Israel, and is finalizing the sale of its stake in The Hain Celestial Group Inc. in the United States.

Closing of the transaction is subject to approval of the New Zealand Overseas Investment Office. Financial terms were not disclosed.

H.J. Heinz Company is one of the world's leading marketers and producers of branded foods in ketchup, condiments, sauces, meals, soups, seafood, snacks and infant foods. Heinz's 50 companies have No. 1 or No. 2 brands in 200 countries.

SOURCE: H.J. Heinz Company via Business Wire.