NABISCO TO CONSOLIDATE INT'L FOOD BIZ: CORE SHOPS FCB, MCCANN, JWT SEEK $60 MIL BIZ

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Nabisco Foods is exploring a consolidation of its international cookie, cracker and puddings businesses, representing $60 million-plus in billings.

The company, which currently operates in 84 countries, is believed now to use a network of 20 agencies around the world, including small local shops. Talks for the business being shopped, however, center on its core agencies: Foote, Cone & Belding; McCann-Erickson Worldwide; and J. Walter Thompson Co.

The review does not affect U.S. assignments.

DECISION IN MID-MARCH

Nabisco International heard presentations from each agency earlier this month, and a decision is expected in mid-March.

FCB is the cookie and cereal agency in the U.S., and also handles Nabisco in eight other countries. McCann, the U.S. cracker agency, works with the marketer in 18 other countries. JWT, the major shop in Asia and Latin America, has Nabisco business in 15 countries.

Running the review is Ken Constable, Nabisco International senior VP-sales, marketing and operations. Mr. Constable declined comment, as did the agencies.

Those familiar with the plan say Nabisco International-which named Charles Lieppe president-CEO in April 1996-hopes to make a bigger global push for several brands, uniting them with consistent marketing strategies.

Many of its 100-plus international products are currently sold under different names in various countries, and some operate under licensing agreements.

Last year, Nabisco's international food sales rose 13.2% to $2.57 billion. But international foods accounted for only 15.1% of total company revenue in 1996.

That puts Nabisco in the minor leagues internationally, vs. companies such as Kraft Foods, which had $11.5 billion in international sales for the year ended in December. Kraft's international food sales comprise 41.5% of the company's $27.7 billion in total food sales.

ONCE A BIGGER FORCE

Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Roy Burry said Nabisco was once a bigger force in international food before parent RJR Nabisco was taken over by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

"But they sold the businesses to pay off debt," he said. Now, Nabisco has "a long way to go to reach Kraft or Heinz."

"I can see why Nabisco would want to push overseas more," said PaineWebber analyst Manny Goldman. "They have great brands, and it makes sense. Their results haven't set the world on fire, and almost 80% of their [international] earnings are in Western Europe. They need to broaden from there."

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