Blog: Continental consolidation
Dean Best | 29 June 2009
After months of speculation, news reached us on Friday (26 June) that struggling UK prepared meals company Uniq has entered into a binding agreement over the sale of its French business, Marie, to LDC.
Following regulatory and shareholder approval, LDC would acquire 100% of Marie in a deal worth EUR60m (US$84.5m). The French poultry group would also assume responsibility for Marie's net debt of EUR13m.
According to Investec analyst Nicola Mallard, the deal offers Uniq "a solid price" as "trading has not been easy in the French market". Indeed, in the first quarter Marie announced a 7.6% sales decline.
Uniq told just-food that proceeds from the sale would be used to pay down debt and address a pension deficit. The remainder would then be reinvested in Uniq’s other businesses.
While the market broadly expects Uniq to announce a further sale of its remaining continental interests, a spokesperson for the company insisted that a decision is yet to be made on the way forward for its units in northern Europe. According to Uniq, the possibility of further investment and the establishment of a joint venture still on the cards.
The agreement also sees LDC consolidate its position on the highly fragmented French ready meals market. Phillip Galin, MD of fresh meals at LDC, said that the acquisition would provide the company with a crucial foothold in the branded prepared foods sector.
“Five years ago we said we aimed to develop chilled brands but we didn't have a great brand. With Marie, it is for us a way to have such a position on the French market and develop categories of products," he told just-food.
Meanwhile, further consolidation in the French food sector could also be in the offing, with rumours abound that embattled dairy group Entremont Alliance has attracted the acquisitive eye of Lactalis, among others.
France’s food sector is made up of a patchwork of smaller players. As the current trading environment places increasing pressure on weaker companies, it seems we could well be in for a swathe of M&A news from across the channel in the months to come.
Danone completed its US$12.5bn acquisition of WhiteWave Foods this week. The move will roughly double Danone's presence in North America, where WhiteWave is a top four dairy player. ...
Premier Foods plc revealed today (28 March) it has secured a deal with its pension scheme trustees that will see the UK food maker reduce its pension burden....
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....
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