CHINA/UK: Bright Food buys majority stake in Weetabix

By Dean Best | 3 May 2012

Bright Food has acquired 60% of Weetabix

Bright Food has acquired 60% of Weetabix

China's Bright Food has acquired a majority stake in UK cereal maker Weetabix.

The deal, announced today (3 May), follows speculation that Bright Food was looking to buy Weetabix from its owner, the private-equity firm Lion Capital.

Bright Food has purchased 60% of Weetabix, leaving Lion and management to hold the remaining 40%. The agreement values Weetabix at GBP1.2bn (US$1.94bn).

The Chinese firm said the deal was a "landmark acquistion ... signalling its entry into both the UK and global food markets". The company has made overseas investments, including last year's acquisition of Australia's Manassen Foods, but it has also missed out on more international businesses, including United Biscuits and Yoplait.

Bright Food said the acquisition of Weetabix was the largest made by a Chinese company in the food and beverage sector.

"We are excited by the many growth opportunities for the business, especially in international markets, and Asia in particular. With Bright Food’s strong resources and our expertise in both the Chinese and broader international markets, we are excellently placed to develop the Weetabix business," Bright Food chairman Zongnan Wang said.

Weetabix was the first investment made by Lion Capital when it acquired the business in 2004. Lyndon Lea, a partner at the private-equity firm, said Weetabix had seen its sales "outpace the broader cereal market" in those eight years.

Lea said the ownership of Weetabix had been "an enormously successful investment" and added he was "excited" to extend the business into China alongside Bright Food.

Weetabix CEO Giles Turrell said there were "substantial opportunities" for the company outside the UK, where it is the second-largest cereal manufacturer.

"We are very excited about the future prospects for Weetabix under the guidance and support of shareholders who bring a strong track record of success and the complementary skills and expertise to execute our strategy and vision for the business," Turrell said.

Sectors: Cereal, Emerging markets, Mergers & acquisitions

Companies: Weetabix, Bright Food, Manassen Foods, United Biscuits, Yoplait

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State-backed Chinese group Bright Food has finally made an investment in Europe, with the acquisition of a 60% stake in Weetabix. The deal has potential benefits for both sides - but can Bright Food really develop a significant presence for the brand in China, where the breakfast cereal market is in its early days.

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