Griffins brands include Squiggles biscuits

Griffin's brands include Squiggles biscuits

Philippines-based Universal Robina Corp. is to acquire New Zealand biscuit group Griffin's Foods from private-equity firm Pacific Equity Partners for NZ$700m (US$608.9m).

URC, which sells a range of packaged foods across Greater China and south-east Asia, said Griffin's was the "number one snack food company" in New Zealand and had a "growing presence" in Australia.

However, URC added Griffin's had a "strong platform for Asian expansion". URC claimed it could "transform Griffin's international growth strategy" through its distribution network in the Philippines and in other Asian markets.

Griffin's generates annual sales of NZ$280m and EBITDA of NZ$78m, URC said. The company added it expects the acquisition to be "value accretive" to its business.

The New Zealand firm sells sweet biscuits in its domestic market under brands including Choco-ade and Toffee Pops. Its portfolio takes in savoury snacks, crackers and snack bars. The company also produces own-label lines for retailers in Australia. Its products are sold in 20 markets.

URC president and chief executive Lance Gokongwei said: "We believe Griffin's is at the forefront of global consumer trends in snacking, including: indulgence; a sense of play and excitement; using natural ingredients; ensuring traceability of source; and providing healthy alternatives. We are very excited to introduce and grow these brands in Asia."

The completion of the deal is subject to regulatory clearance in New Zealand. Griffin's COO Alison Taylor will become CEO. Executive chairman Ron Vela will be retained as a consultant, URC said.

Pacific Equity Partners bought Griffin's from Danone in 2006 for around NZ$385m. Speculation the private-equity firm could be looking to sell Griffin's first emerged in 2010. A sale process was started in the autumn of 2011.

David Brown, MD of Pacific Equity Partners, said: "Working with the Griffin's management team has been a fantastic experience and a great example of collaboration in a sector we know well."

In May, Pacific Equity Partners sold Australian ice cream firm Peters Food Group to UK-based R&R Ice Cream for an undisclosed sum. Pacific Equity Partners had acquired Peters from Nestle in 2012.