A global rush for Australasian food assets continued yesterday with Pacific Equity Partners selling a New Zealand company to Philippine snack and beverage maker Universal Robina for NZ$700m (€450m).
The sale would be the second for Australia’s largest buyout firm during a period of strong interest in makers of high-quality food products needed to satisfy the demand of Asia’s growing middle class.
In May, Pacific Equity Partners sold Australian ice-cream maker Peters Food Group to Britain’s R&R Ice Cream plc for a reported A$450m (€312m), doubling its investment in two years.
PEP’s latest sale of Griffin’s Foods && would yield a similar return after having bought the company from France’s Danone in 2006 for NZ$385m (€247m).
“We’re confident (Griffin’s) growth story will continue under the ownership of (Universal), facilitating further growth into Asean markets,” PEP managing director David Brown said, referring to the Association of South-east Asian Nations.
The sale is part of a major asset sale at PEP, which so far this year has listed cleaner-caterer Spotless Group and sanitary products maker Asaleo Care.
But it is Australasian food assets that have drawn particular international attention in recent months.
In May, China’s Wilmar International and Hong Kong’s First Pacific agreed to buy baker and dairy company Goodman Fielder Ltd for A$1.32bn (€0.92bn).
In January, Canada’s Saputo fended off eight other international suitors in a protracted bidding war for control of Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Company Holdings.
In the same month, China’s state-owned Bright Food Group bought yoghurt and cheesemaker Mundella Foods for an undisclosed sum, three years after paying A$530m (€367m) for 75% of Manassen Foods.
Universal Robina, a $7.9bn (€5.85bn) company owned by the Philippines’ fifth-richest person, John Gokongwei Jr, is set to become the latest foreign mover in the Australasian food market by buying Griffin’s.
New Zealand is “a country trusted worldwide in having high credibility when it comes to food quality, safety, and authenticity,” Universal president and chief executive Lance Gokongwei said.
Universal, a unit of Philippine conglomerate JG Summit Holdings, said it would acquire Griffin’s by buying the latter’s holding firm NZ Snack Food Holdings in cash.
Offshore unit URC International will use long-term debt financing and internal sources to fund the acquisition, which will involve an initial sum of NZ$100m (€65m), with the balance paid after receiving local regulatory approval.
“(Universal) has been looking for opportunities to explore potential acquisitions and partnerships in line with our vision to be a significant regional player in snack foods and beverages,” Gokongwei said.
“We believe Griffin’s is at the forefront of global consumer trends in snacking. We are very excited to introduce and grow these brands in Asia.”
Trading of shares in Universal was suspended yesterday pending an announcement. The shares have gained 40% so far this year compared with a 16% rise in the benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Composite Index.