This week saw the high levels of M&A activity we have seen throughout May continue, with the shock announcement that the board of US pork group Smithfield has given its unanimous backing to a takeover bid from Chinese pork group Shuanghui International. The deal is likely to face a number of hurdles, not least due to concerns from US regulators over the implications of Chinese ownership of a major US food producer. Investment also flowed in the opposite direction, with news that US firm McCormick has purchased Chinese bouillon maker Wuhan Asia-Pacific Condiments. Meanwhile, Mondelez International highlighted its focus on the Chinese market when executives spoke at the Citi 2013 Global Consumer Conference in New York.

UPDATE: US: Smithfield: Chinese ownership to benefit US pork sector
The sale of US pork producer, Smithfield Foods, to China’s largest pork processor, Shuanghui International, will help open the Chinese market to US hogs, management insisted today (29 May).

In the spotlight: Hurdles ahead for Shuanghui Smithfield takeover
The surprise news that the board of US pork group Smithfield Foods has unanimously backed a takeover bid from Chinese group Shuanghui International highlights the ever-increasing importance of China on the global stage – both as a market for products and as an outward investor actively participating in M&A. However, with regulatory and political hurdles ahead, the transaction is far from a done deal. Katy Askew reports.

Talking shop: Delhaize better positioned in US following disposal
Belgium-based retailer Delhaize Group is to offload its Sweetbay, Harveys and Reid’s chains in the US to Winn-Dixie owner Bi-Lo. The move could reduce earnings in the short term but should provide the group with the opportunity to improve its balance sheet and help position its US operations for long-term growth. Katy Askew reports.

Focus: Mondelez: China is our most important opportunity
Mondelez International has said China remains the “single, most important opportunity” for the group as it looks to ramp up expansion in emerging markets.

Focus: General Mills investments to boost flagging US yoghurt
General Mills, which has struggled to grow its US yoghurt brands, said yesterday (30 May) it would look to marketing and innovation to revitalise sales in the increasingly promotional category.

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Shopper trends: Promo levels at tipping point
Promotions are no longer working in the way that they used to amid pressure from commodity costs and the drop in loyalty towards brands from consumers.

Comment: French retailers battle over convenience, online
The French food retail sector is notoriously competitive and hard to operate in. As the country’s retail giants slug it out for a higher share of a relatively stagnant market, the battle is raging on all fronts. With low overall growth, retailers are zoning in on the areas of greatest potential: online and convenience.

UPDATE: CHINA: WAPC deal more than doubles McCormick’s Chinese sales
The acquisition of Chinese bouillon maker Wuhan Asia-Pacific Condiments (WAPC) by McCormick & Co. will more than double the US spice group’s sales in the country.

Sustainability Watch – Chris Ninnes, Aquaculture Stewardship Council
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council has made significant strides since its launch in 2010. Chief executive Chris Ninnes discusses its mission and strategy with Ben Cooper.

BRICs and beyond: Hershey wisely goes local in China
Hershey, long criticised for the slow speed with which it entered faster-growing confectionery markets, has seen sales jump in China in recent years on the back of its homegrown chocolate brands. However, chocolate is not China’s largest confectionery sector and competition is fierce. Hershey has wisely launched a candy brand targeted at Chinese consumers. Candy is crowded, too, but as, Dean Best writes, the move demonstrates the company knows products tailored to local needs could help it gain ground faster.