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December 20, 2010

The just-food management briefing – M&A in 2010 – a timeline

There have been over 640 stories in just-food's M&A section since April this year covering everything from industry-changing mergers to bolt on acquisitions and brand disposals. This section to the briefing tracks the major moves through the year by looking at all the deals that were put under scrutiny in our insights section.

There have been over 640 stories in just-food’s M&A section since April this year covering everything from industry-changing mergers to bolt on acquisitions and brand disposals. This section to the briefing tracks the major moves through the year by looking at all the deals that were put under scrutiny in our insights section. 

January 2010

Cadbury’s sweet surrender leaves bitter taste
The year had hardly begun before the food industry dominated the business pages in the UK as Cadbury’s acceptance of a takeover bid from Kraft Foods signalled the end to one of the country’s most famous businesses. The deal raised eyebrows not least because of the UK confectioner’s fierce criticism of the US food giant’s business and management. just-food’s editor Dean Best argued that, despite the Dairy Milk maker insisting Kraft’s higher offer is “good value” for the company’s investors, Cadbury’s board was presiding over a business worth much more.

March

Kettle buy a long-term jewel for Diamond
Shares in Diamond Foods plummeted in the wake of news that the US snack maker had struck a deal to acquire premium chip company Kettle Foods. However, investor-jitters aside, Katy Humphries, just-food’s deputy editor, suggested the long-term upside of the deal was likely to outweigh the short-term risks. 

Ebro cuts ties with dairy with Lactalis sale
A full 100 years since a forerunner of Spanish food giant Ebro Puleva made its first dairy products, the company quit the category after a deal with Lactalis. As Dean Best argued, the sale enabled Ebro to focus on rice and pasta, while Ebro gained scale in Spain’s dairy market, where private-label manufacturers were gaining traction.

April

Long road ahead for Couche-Tard in Casey’s pursuit
Couche-Tard, the Canadian convenience store operator, launched what became one of the year’s longest-running sagas when it went after US rival Casey’s General Stores. just-food argued at the time that the Canadian group would need to dig in for the long haul if it wanted success.

May

Private-equity returns to the table
As the year reached springtime, there seemed to be more evidence of the revived appetite of private equity for deals in the food sector. News towards the end of May that Michael Foods, the US food group, was set to change hands and fall into the ownership of a private-equity unit of Goldman Sachs and that Norwegian food maker Rieber & Søn said it had agreed to sell seafood business King Oscar to a private-equity buyer, where two examples.

Wal-Mart Asda get it right with Netto deal
That Asda, the UK arm of Wal-Mart and the country’s second-largest retailer, was keen to open smaller stores was well-known throughout the industry. That Asda would buy the UK stores of discount chain Netto to help it achieve that goal was not necessarily how it was expected to achieve that goal.

June

Sodiaal’s pursuit of Entremont
We were almost at the mid-year point when it became apparent that, after almost 12 months, we were finally close to seeing Sodiaal acquire French dairy peer Entremont Alliance – and, as a consequence, create one of Europe’s largest dairy processors. Sodiaal’s pursuit of Entremont Alliance had seen government intervention, opposition to a rival bid from industry heavyweight Lactalis and tense discussions over the debts that stalled the deal.

Food companies looking to score overseas
As football lovers waited for the start of the World Cup in South Africa, a clutch of leading food companies set out their stall for overseas success. Bakery giant Aryzta struck two acquisitions in the US for a combined US$1.1bn. The deals, the most significant moves since Ireland’s IAWS and Switzerland’s Hiestand merged to form Aryzta in 2008, looked set to make the company more global and more broad-based in terms of its distribution channels.

Casey’s results weaken Couche-Tard’s hand
Couche-Tard, we argued back in April, would have a hard time convincing shareholders at Casey’s General Stores that its US$1.9bn bid for the US c-store operator was an attractive offer. That point had been underlined by June and just-food argued that the Canadian retailer needed to significantly rethink what it is prepared to offer.

Marfrig faces threat of indigestion amid global expansion
The humble chicken nugget grabbed the M&A headlines in the food industry in June after Brazilian food group Marfrig moved to buy the largest privately-held meat products company in the US, Keystone Foods. Marfrig said the US$1.26bn deal would help it grow to become one of the largest suppliers to food processors like ConAgra Foods but also, notably, fast-food businesses McDonald’s Corp. and Yum Brands, the owner of chains including KFC. The acquisition was just the latest in a series of deals signed by Brazil’s largest meat processors, both domestically and abroad.

July

Findus sale finds favour with Unilever and Birds Eye 
The deal signals Unilever’s exit from frozen food (except, of course, from ice cream) and appears to benefit both the consumer goods giant and Birds Eye Iglo, one of Europe’s largest frozen-food manufacturers. 

In the spotlight – Ralcorp Holdings
US food group Ralcorp Holdings announced three acquisitions it hoped would broaden a business that makes products from cookies and cereal to frozen foods. However, Dean Best asked whether the largest acquisition, of US pasta supplier American Italian Pasta Co., would benefit Ralcorp? 

Lance and Snyder’s – a “formidable” duo
US snack maker Lance announced it was to merge with rival Snyder’s of Hanover to create what analysts expected to be a “formidable” company in the snack foods business. The deal combined the two firms in what they have called a “stock-for-stock merger of equals” to create a company called Snyder’s-Lance.

Private equity most likely to bite at United Biscuits
The potential sale of UK snack and biscuit maker United Biscuits was one of the most-followed stories on just-food this year. The prospect of a deal, despite the fact that it is still to be finalised confirmed by the company itself, has captured the imagination as only a large M&A move can.

Will Picard’s unique proposition translate abroad?
France’s largest frozen food retailer Picard was put up for sale with Lion Capital the buyer in a deal that was rumoured to be worth EUR1.5bn (US$1.94bn), including debt. As just-food reported, it was a deal that drew positive reviews from analysts for the private-equity house.

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