As we headed into September, there was uncertainty about the prospects for M&A activity, with analysts at KPMG suggesting the value of deals in the food, drink and consumer goods space in the second quarter stood at just under US$19bn – down from the $49bn of deals recorded in the first three months of the year. However, the last months of 2010 saw a number of key pieces of M&A – notably the merger of Greencore and Northern Foods – and deals signed to see PepsiCo buy Wimm-Bill-Dann and a private-equity consortium by Del Monte Foods.

September 2010

Stalling M&A activity points to faltering recovery
The M&A market begins to slow again at the end of the third quarter, just as fears of a double dip recession resurface. As just-food reported, the willingness of retailers and food and drink manufactures to consider acquiring new businesses is a solid indicator of their levels of confidence in the consumer environment. More importantly, it is a good reflection of companies’ faith in the medium and long-term health of the sector.

M&A spotlight shines on McVitie’s, Pringles and Yoplait
The battle to buy United Biscuits takes on an Eastern flavour when Chinese state-backed conglomerate Bright Food Group is reported to be in exclusive talks to buy the UK company. The entry of Bright Food into the race raises eyebrows and fears of a jingoistic reaction by the UK press following the controversy over Kraft Foods’ acquisition of Cadbury. However, as just-food argues United Biscuits’ current owners are the French private-equity firm PAI Partners and the US buy-out house Blackstone.

Wal-Mart seeks foothold in Africa through Massmart
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, seeks a foothold in Africa through a bid for South African retailer Massmart.  The US retail giant tabled an offer of US$4.3bn to buy Massmart, a retailer that operates nine banners, ranging from general and discount merchandise through to cash and carry and home improvement stores.


Unilever, SOS, Premier next in M&A spotlight
The appetite for M&A in the food industry accelerates again. After the speculation surrounding Pringles, Yoplait and United Biscuits, Unilever moved firmly into the M&A spotlight with its admission that two food brands in the UK, Chicken Tonight and Ragu, could soon be up for sale.

What now for United Biscuits?
Bright Food’s flirtation with Penguin biscuit owner United Biscuits seems to come to an end. According to reports, talks between Bright Food and United Biscuits’ private-equity owners over a possible US$3.2bn near collapse.


Emmi’s shrewd move for Onken yoghurt
Back in April, Emmi CFO hinted to just-food that the company would make more acquisitions in Europe this year. Since then, in a venture with a regional Swiss dairy co-op, Emmi has snapped up the assets of a former dairy in its own market. The company has also announced plans to revamp its brand portfolio to drive sales. However, as just-food argued, it was clear that more acquisitions were needed and a move for Onken enabled Emmi to take a significant step towards its growth targets.

The impact of Bimbo’s Sara Lee deal
Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo snapped up Sara Lee’s fresh bakery operations in North America for a cool US$959m. Here, Dean Best discussed the repercussions of the deal on both businesses and for the wider US bakery industry.

In the spotlight – The Greencore, Northern Foods merger 
The news that Irish ready-meals supplier Greencore and Fox’s biscuits group Northern Foods, also two key own-label suppliers to UK multiples, was applauded by the City. 

Lactalis pursuit for Yoplait unlikely to be smooth
Lactalis, the privately-owned French dairy giant and owner of brands from President cheese to Rachel’s organic yoghurts, fired the starting gun on the race for Yoplait. The global yoghurt brand had been the centre of speculation since the summer.

A tale of two French retailers in south-east Asia
The spotlight on south-east Asia’s retail sectors began to grow in the second half of the year, as the future of Carrefour‘s operations in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand came into question. That focus intensified when Carrefour sold its Thai business to Big C, a local retailer part-owned by French rival Casino and, surprisingly, decided to keep hold of its stores in Malaysia and Singapore.

Is Australia a closed shop for retailers?
The Australian competition watchdog’s decision to block the sale of retailer Franklins to local distributor Metcash highlighted the heavily concentrated nature of the grocery industry in the country. With only two major players in the market, the deal would have given Metcash a leg-up in competing with the leaders of Australian retail, Coles and Woolworths Ltd.

What lies ahead for Del Monte Foods?
The Del Monte brand is one of the most well-known in the food sector but, in the immediate aftermath of the deal being announced, analysts suggested that KKR, Vestar Capital Partners and Centerview Partners signed the hefty cheque to get their hands on Del Monte’s pet products. Dean Best wondered where Del Monte’s consumer-foods business fit into KKR’s pet project?

YoCream buy is Danone’s latest move to diversify
To some in the financial community, Danone‘s move to buy US frozen-yoghurt maker YoCream International was not – to use the jargon – “material” enough to warrant too much attention from the financial community. However, the US$103m deal was another significant sign of the French food giant’s moves to diversify its business.


PepsiCo ready to milk dairy with Wimm-Bill-Dann buy
A “watershed”. A “significant milestone”. A “unique and transformational opportunity”. PepsiCo’s senior executives reached for the adjectives when they outlined the company’s move to buy Russian dairy, baby food and juice maker Wimm-Bill-Dann.

Russia’s X5 Retail plans aggressive expansion
Russia’s leading grocery retailer X5 Retail Group‘s acquisition of soft discounter Kopeyka gave it a stronger base to drive aggressive growth plans in a heavily fragmented, but highly attractive market. The top ten retailers still only account for 11% of total grocery sales in Russia, X5 Retail Group CEO Lev Khasis said following the announcement of the company’s US$1.6bn deal to buy Kopeyka.

Focus: Arla-Hansa merger another signpost in dairy consolidation 
The creeping consolidation in Europe’s dairy sector looks set to continue with the news that Arla Foods and Germany’s Hansa-Milch plan to merge.