Australia’s Bega Cheese, the dairy-to-Vegemite manufacturer, has announced it has to sell its stake in the local Vitasoy Australia plant-based beverages joint venture.

Bega Cheese became a partner in the venture, alongside Hong Kong-listed plant-based food and drinks business Vitasoy International, as part of the acquisition of Lion Dairy & Drinks in 2021.

Vitasoy owns 51% of the business through its subsidiary Vita International while Bega Cheese has a 49% stake through its subsidiary National Food Holdings. Under the terms of the original agreement, Vitasoy has the right to buy out Bega’s stake in the venture.

In an announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) yesterday (16 October), Bega Cheese said the deal between the two parties provided Vita International with an option to buy all of the shares held by National Food “at a price that is either agreed between the parties or, if agreement is not reached, a fair value determined by an independent expert, with the option being exercisable during a 90-day period commencing from the end of October 2022”.

Vitasoy International has lodged its intention to exercise this option with the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

In an announcement it said: “The board of directors of the company is pleased to announce that the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board has issued a no-objection notification, which confirms the Australian government has no objections to the potential acquisition by Vita International of the remaining 49% of the issued share capital in Vitasoy Australia that is currently held by National Foods, resulting in Vita International holding 100% of the issued share capital in Vitasoy Australia.

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“As at the date of this announcement, and in light of the FIRB approval, it is the intention of the board of Vita International to exercise the call option.”

Financial details of the stake sale have not been announced and nor has the timing of the transfer of ownership.

Bega Cheese said it will provide a further market update “as and when appropriate”. It added: “Bega Cheese recognises the growing market importance of plant-based beverages and products and will assess its options to continue involvement in this sector if its interest in Vitasoy Australia is acquired by Vita International”.