Hugli - will add volume to Bell Food Groups convenience food portfolio.

Hugli - will add volume to Bell Food Group's convenience food portfolio.

In an all-Swiss deal, convenience foods supplier Bell Food Group has acquired Dr. A. Stoffel Holding, the majority shareholder in local peer Hügli.

Stoffel Holding has a stake representing 50.2% and 65% of the voting shares in Hügli, which manufactures private-label products for retailers and supplies manufacturers.

Bell said the deal - for an acquisition price of CHF915 (US$947.8) per share - "significantly" expands its position in the European convenience food market.

It predicts around CHF1bn in revenues - more than a quarter of Bell Food Group's consolidated revenues - will in future be generated in what it called the "high-growth, high-margin" convenience sector.

The takeover is being financed through a combination of equity and debt capital.

Basel-based Bell Food Group, which provides a range of meat, poultry, charcuterie and seafood products, is simultaneously making a public tender offer for the remaining publicly traded shares of Hügli Holding at a price of CHF915 per share.

Hügli, founded in 1935, specialises in the convenience segment, making soups, sauces, bouillons, desserts, functional food and delicatessen specialities. 

It supplies the foodservice sector, provides white label products and supplies ingredients to food producers, as well as selling its own - mainly organic - brands. It has 1,500 employees in 11 countries and generates annual sales of CHF385m.

Hansueli Loosli, chairman of the board of directors of Bell Food Group, said: "As well as strengthening our traditional areas of business, the acquisition of Hügli marks an important milestone in our growth strategy in the convenience sector. 

"We are proud that Hügli's founding family has chosen us as the new owner. We believe this combination has great potential to benefit our customers, employees and shareholders."

In a statement, Hügli said the "the descendants of the founding family ... have assured the future of their successful company".

Jean Gérard Villot, Hügli's chairman, added: "Hügli remains Hügli. In Bell Food Group, our company has found a new owner that shares the principles of business management that have made Hügli an internationally successful and respected producer and provider in the convenience sector. This union, which has the full support of Hügli's Board of Directors and Group Executive Management, is also very good news for our employees and customers."

Bell Food Group will propose to shareholders at its annual general meeting in April that they approve a capital increase of around CHF600m. This will help finance the acquisition of Hügli and further "growth investments" in the convenience market.

The deal follows Bell's takeover of fresh convenience specialist Hilcona last May and salad provider Eisberg. 

The transaction is subject to approval from European competition authorities.