Blog: Dean BestHas the silly season arrived early?

Dean Best | 1 June 2009

As we move into June, it seems the silly season could already be upon us.

Now, of course, don't expect just-food to carry stories about believers finding an image of Christ in a loaf of bread or star-gazers seeing Victor Meldrew in space but, in recent days, there have been one or two pieces of takeover talk that have raised eyebrows.

Take Cadbury's “interest” in Leaf International, the confectioner behind Chewits. Rumours that Cadbury had made a bid for the Netherlands-based firm first emerged last month and, although Cadbury, declined to comment at the time, any move seemed unlikely.

Over the weekend, reports in the UK claimed that Leaf's private-equity backers had failed to attract suitable offers. Nevertheless, the deal always seemed unlikely – an acquisition of Leaf would have meant a change in direction for Cadbury.

Just-food's Italian for Dummies guide does not have the translation for “silly season” but a fine example was last week's rumours linking Danone to Italian dairy groups Parmalat and Granorolo.

Parmalat's shares jumped on the reports but a deal seems unlikely, given Danone's strength in the Italian dairy sector. Reports in France today (1 June) quoted a top Danone executive saying that the French food giant would only focus on small acquisitions, once its share issue is done and dusted.

Nevertheless, there is one piece of M&A in the food industry that looks set to go through – the acquisition of French poultry firm Groupe Arrivé by sector leader LDC.

Volatile feed costs and weak consumer demand has made the last 18 months a turbulent time in France's poultry sector but, as LDC's chief executive told just-food on Friday, there are plenty of reasons for optimism in the months ahead.

As the summer rolls on, we can be sure that the rumour mill will continue to grind out speculation and counter-speculation. Just this morning, shares in UK cake maker Finsbury Food Group soared after the company admitted it had been sounded out about a potential bid for the business. Finsbury, however, was keen to play it straight, insisting the business has only received a "preliminary approach" and even revealing that its management believes there is "considerable doubt" that a firm bid will be tabled.

One for us news gatherers to watch, nonetheless.


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