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January 16, 2012

GERMANY/UK: Wiseman board backs sale to Muller

German yoghurt maker Unternehmensgruppe Theo Müller has made a GBP279.5m takeover bid to buy UK milk supplier Robert Wiseman Dairies, the companies announced this morning (16 January).

By Dean Best

German yoghurt maker Müller has made a GBP279.5m (US$428.1m) takeover bid to buy UK milk supplier Robert Wiseman Dairies, the companies announced this morning (16 January).

In an announcement to the London Stock Exchange, Wiseman’s board declared Müller’s offer as “fair and reasonable” and said investors representing over 54% of the company had indicated that they intend to accept the offer. Shareholders backing the offer include UK dairy co-op First Milk, which owns 10.1% of Wiseman.

On Friday, Wiseman had revealed the two sides were in takeover talks. This morning, Wiseman executive chairman Robert Wiseman welcomed the prospect of the two companies joining forces.

“The combination of Müller and Wiseman makes strong commercial and strategic sense, creating a leading integrated dairy business in the United Kingdom with complementary positions in the yoghurt and potted desserts market and the fresh milk market,” Mr Wiseman said.

“Wiseman has its origins as a family business and, since listing in 1994, my family has retained a significant stake in the business. It is heartening to know that the business will become part of another family-owned business in Müller.

“Müller’s offer represents an attractive price for an outstanding business and Müller recognises the importance of Wiseman’s management, who will continue to lead the business alongside Müller, employees and our best-in-class assets. These factors have contributed to the board’s recommendation of this transaction.”

Wiseman’s board and directors have recommended the GBP3.90-a-share offer to the company’s shareholders. The bid represents a 59.8% premium to the price at which Wiseman’s shares closed on Thursday, the day before news of the talks between the two companies went public.

Once privately-owned Müller secures the backing of 75% of Wiseman shareholders, the UK firm will apply to be delisted from the London Stock Exchange. If 90% of investors accept Müller’s bid, the German firm will move to buy up the rest of the company under stock market rules.

Müller CEO Heiner Kamps said: “This is an exciting strategic move by Müller to enter a new market segment in the UK. The combination of these complementary businesses will form a leading dairy player offering a range of exceptional products to our customers across the UK.”

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