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November 18, 2013

UK: Ontario Teachers’ fund to buy UK biscuit firm Burton’s

Canadian pension fund Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan is set to become the majority owner of Burton's Biscuit Co., the UK firm behind brands including Jammie Dodgers and Wagon Wheels.

Canadian pension fund Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is set to become the majority owner of Burton’s Biscuit Co., the UK firm behind brands including Jammie Dodgers and Wagon Wheels.

Private-equity groups Apollo Management and CIBC put their share of the UK biscuit group on the block earlier this year. The deal with OTPP, announced today (18 November), was for an undisclosed sum, but Apollo Management and CIBC had been looking for a sum in region of GBP350m (US$562.8m).

In a statement released this morning, the auction process for the biscuit maker was characterised as competitive, with Burton’s said to have attracted “interest from multiple high-quality bidders”.

Under the terms of the sale agreement, OTPP will acquire Burton’s brands, its Cadbury licence and manufacturing sites in Blackpool, Edinburgh and Llantarnam along with its chocolate refinery in Moreton.

The agreement with OTPP was a reflection of the company’s “strong financial performance” and “clear strategy”, the parties said in a joint statement.

Burton’s is one year into a four-year turnaround strategy that has seen it investing in efficiency and NPD. The company has shed some of its less profitable private-label contracts in order to focus on brand development as it works to drive growth in the UK and overseas.

Jo Taylor, head of OTPP’s London office, suggested Burton’s could look to M&A to speed its international expansion. “There are… many strategic acquisitions to consider in [international] territories that can enhance these ambitious growth plans.”

Apollo and CIBC took control of the business in 2009 in a debt-for-equity swap with Duke Street Capital, which was forced to hand over the company to the lenders that had financed its GBP220m buy-out of Burton’s in 2007.

Burton’s management team were also left with a small minority stake in the firm and the group had indicated their desire to remain involved in the company following the sale. Following the sale, Burton’s will continue to be led by its existing management under CEO Ben Clarke and management will retain a stake in the company.

Clarke said the management team was “delighted” to welcome OTPP on board. “As significant co-investors going forward, it was critical for the management team to find the right partner. With their combination of extraordinary financial firepower, true partnership approach and global expertise, it is clear to me that OTPP are the ideal partner for us. We are very excited about working with Jo Taylor and his team as we pursue our ambitious plans for growth both in the UK and internationally.”

In September, Burton’s revealed full-year profit before tax rose GBP4.8m to GBP10m. EBITDA was up 24% to GBP34.6m, compared to GBP27.8m in 2012.

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