Chinese dairy company buys Lion Dairy and Drinks portfolio for $600m

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Some of your favourite brands — including Big M and Dare iced coffee — have a new home after a whopping $600 million takeover of one of Australia’s biggest dairy operations.

The Chinese dairy company Mengniu which earlier agreed to pay $1.5 billion to purchase organic baby formula maker Bellamy’s Australia has gone a step further in taking over the Lion Dairy and Drinks portfolio.

It means there are new owners for brands including Dairy Farmers, Pura, Dare, Farmers Union, Big M, Vitasoy, as well as Yoplait yoghurt and Daily Juice.

Lion, which has been on the market for more than 12 months, also owns a beer business that makes Little Creatures, James Squire and Tooheys. Owners approached the Mengniu Dairy ahead of the sale, they said in a statement Monday.

“The full divestment of the Dairy & Drinks business will ensure it has an owner that is well placed to grow the business over the long term, while also accelerating Lion’s pivot to becoming a leading global adult drinks business,” Lion chief executive Stuart Irvine said.

The Dairy and Drinks component of the business employs around 2300 people across Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and China.

Mengniu Dairy chief executive Jeffrey Minfang Lu said the acquisition would benefit both Lion Dairy & Drinks and Mengniu Dairy as well as providing opportunities for Australian dairy farmers and fruit growers, by opening up a significant channel to China.

The company buys about 825 million “milk equivalent” litres a year from around 280 Australian dairy farmers, as well as 50 million kilograms of fresh fruit from around 85 fruit growers.

Mengniu said it currently buys milk from dairy processors in New Zealand and Europe, and once the acquisition clears it would step up its purchases from Australian suppliers.

The acquisition is subject to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Foreign Investment Review Board approvals.

It is expected to clear in the first half of 2020, China Mengniu Dairy said. China Mengniu’s acquisition of Bellamy’s Australia received Foreign Investment Review Board approval on November 15 and will be voted on by shareholders on December 5.

— with AAP
News Corp,

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