The impairment charge drove an overall corporate loss of $181 million in the quarter ended Oct. 1. The charge dwarfs proceeds Sara Lee stands to collect for the business. Sara Lee will be paid about €115 million ($154 million) for the business in Spain/Portugal, which has annual sales of about $400 million. The French business remains to be sold.
What makes the write-off more staggering is that Sara Lee took even a larger charge of $400 million against the European business in 2008, or $771 million in the last three years. According to 2001 filings by Earthgrains, the European business had identifiable assets totaling $282.2 million around the time of the Sara Lee acquisition of Earthgrains.
Viewed together with the sale of the North American baking division for $709 million, a business acquired for $2.8 billion (including the foreign assets), the investment return from Sara Lee’s experience in fresh baking seems especially grim.