DALLAS -- Dean Foods Co., the nation's largest dairy producer, has agreed to sell its Morningstar unit to Canadian dairy giant Saputo for $1.45 billion.
Morningstar makes dairy and nondairy extended shelf-life products, including creamers widely distributed by workplace refreshment providers, along with ice cream mixes and whipping cream and cultured products like sour cream and cottage cheese.
Dean Foods says it expects to net $887 million from the transaction, which should close by the end of this year or early 2013.
Morningstar has about 2,000 employees and operates 10 manufacturing facilities in nine states. It had 2011 sales of $1.3 billion.
The combined Saputo and Morningstar business will have about 12,000 employees and 57 manufacturing facilities in five countries. Saputo's U.S. dairy products division, which will be complemented by the Morningstar business, is based in Illinois.
Dean Foods's WhiteWave Foods Co. organic and soymilk unit went public in October, but Dean Foods controls the majority of the company's stock.
The WhiteWave IPO and Morningstar sale will leave Dean as largely a producer of branded and private label milk, which has reportedly been the largest revenue producer for the company, with net sales of $9.6 billion in 2011.