Blog: Bright Food's United Biscuits "interest" ruffles feathers
Dean Best | 28 September 2010
Reports linking Chinese state-owned Bright Food Group to a possible GBP2bn (US$3.16bn) takeover bid for United Biscuits has provoked a typically robust response from parts of the UK press.
The rumours, which emerged over the weekend were reported upon worldwide yesterday (27 September), with the Daily Mail insisting a deal would be "a further hammer blow to the UK's manufacturing heritage".
At the other end of the UK political spectrum, the Unite union said the "uncertainty" over United Biscuits' future was "not welcome" and added: "Whenever businesses are bought and sold, particularly by private equity, invariably our members see their terms and conditions attacked and jobs offshored as new owners try to maximise profits from the company."
Across the English Channel in France, where United Biscuits has a significant presence, Le Figaro talked of a "food jewel" (namely the company's BN brand) being "swallowed by a Chinese giant".
But what of Bright Food? Little is known about the Shanghai-based company, although it has four listed subsidiaries. (For a breakdown of Bright Food's business, click here).
While the M&A spotlight shone on the parent company, one of those subsidiaries, Bright Dairy, has successfully concluded a piece of overseas investment in New Zealand. The dairy unit has secured regulatory approval for its acquisition of a 51% stake in New Zealand dairy firm Synlait.
The moves comes amid much debate in New Zealand about overseas investment, particularly in the agricultural sector.
The bid by Hong Kong's Natural Dairy Holdings to buy a series of farms in New Zealand has attracted local opposition and the country's regulator is still to rule on the move.
However, the New Zealand government yesterday announced plans to introduce a test of "economic interest" when deciding on whether to allow overseas investment in farmland. Bright Dairy's acquisition has been cleared but whether Natural Dairy's move will receive the green light remains to be seen.
What is clear, however, is that the food sector is an industry where domestic concerns over heritage, jobs and, increasingly, security of supply, come to the fore when overseas 'predators' come calling.
Hain Celestial, under the scrutiny of the investment community in recent months and facing some challenges in its domestic market, has announced another shuffling of its management pack....
FrieslandCampina, which today served up higher profits but lower sales for 2016, is ready to offload the last non-dairy business owned by the Dutch cooperative giant....
To follow on from our earlier notice and after some hard work from our technical team, just-food is back live after today's power outage....
Much of the UK has felt the impact of Storm Doris today - and just-food's head office has been no exception....
- Why personalisation will take-off in US food
- US food next wave on display at Winter Fancy Food
- Comment: Meal kits in US - don't believe the hype
- Column: Kraft Heinz, Unilever and sustainability
- General Mills sales woes continue - analysis
- Unilever 'lining up spreads sale'
- UK own-label firm Park Cakes sold in MBO
- Immigration crackdown "risk" for US dairy industry
- BRF plant suspended amid bribery allegations
- Brazil giants JBS, BRF probed over alleged bribery