The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG) announced today that it is selling a major stake in its pet food businesses to privately held Mars, for $2.9 billion in cash.

While Mars may be better known for its candy bars than pet products, Mars Petcare is one of the "leading" pet food and veterinary care providers in the world, according to the press release from the two companies. With more than 35,000 employees spread across 50 countries, its acquisition of Procter & Gamble's IAMS, EUKANUBA, and NATURA brands in certain regions is seen as a "significant strategic move," the companies said. Mars pet brands inlcude Pedigree, Whiskas, Banfield, and Royal Canin.

"This acquisition is a perfect fit with our Mars Petcare vision of making 'A Better World For Pets'," said Mars Petcare Global President Todd Lachman in a statement today. "The deal reinforces our leadership in pet nutrition and veterinary science, attracts world class talent and grows our world leading portfolio."

For Procter & Gamble's part, President and CEO Alan Lafley is quoted as saying that exiting pet care is "an important step in our strategy to focus P&G's portfolio on the core businesses where we can create the most value for consumers and shareowners." P&G expects the deal with Mars won't have a material impact on its fiscal 2015 results.

While Procter & Gamble will hang on to a portion of its pet business equivalent to 20% of global sales, it will be exploring plans to exit entirely.The geographic regions in the acquisition announced today include North America and Latin America. Markets not included in the transaction are primarily in the European Union.

Subject to regulatory approval, the two companies expect to seal the deal in the second half of 2014.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Justin Loiseau has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.