China’s Sanyuan Foods, Fosun to buy France’s St Hubert for $733m

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Beijing Sanyuan Foods Co Ltd and Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group plan to buy French margarine maker St Hubert for 625 million euros ($733 million), the companies said on Friday.

Sanyuan and Fosun said they had signed an agreement with European private equity firm Montagu to acquire Brassica TopCo S.A. and PPN Management SAS, which are controlling shareholders of St Hubert. Sources had told Reuters Western buyout funds had dropped out of the auction earlier.

Montagu acquired St Hubert from Dairy Crest Plc for 430 million euros in 2012. Set up in 1904, it reported consolidated net turnover of 129 million euros in the 2016 financial year and has 213 employees. It has more than 40 percent market share in France and almost 70 percent in Italy.

Under pressure to improve margins, global giant Unilever is preparing to spin out its own spreads business, a process which is expected to launch in the autumn with several international buyout funds seen bidding.

The St Hubert deal comes even as Beijing scrutinises overseas acquisitions, which include everything from soccer clubs and hotels to mining firms and chemical makers, to rein in offshore spending by huge Chinese firms.

“The proposed acquisition also introduces healthy and innovative foods into China and is aligned with the government’s policy to support and drive technological innovation,” Fosun Chairman Guo Guangchang said in the statement.

Fosun Group, China’s largest private conglomerate, recently said it had a few French consumer goods companies on its radar including ski resorts and amusement parks operator Compagnie des Alpes. It took control of Club Med in January 2015 after a fierce battle lasting nearly two years with Italian tycoon Andrea Bonomi, the longest takeover fight in French corporate history.

The proposed deal will be submitted to St Hubert’s workers’ council and is subject to approval from relevant competition and regulatory authorities, the statement said. Trading in Sanyuan’s shares, suspended since July 17, will resume on Monday.

By Lee Chyen Yee, Meg Shen
Dealstreetasia

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