State-owned Bright Food has agreed to buy a 60 percent stake in a deal which puts a value of 1.2 billion pounds $1.94 billion, including debt, on the private-equity owned company that coined the slogan “Have you had your Weetabix today?”
The Shanghai-based group has been on the acquisition trail, seeking to raise its profile and cater for its rapidly growing home market. Weetabix is its second foreign purchase in a year and its first in Europe after other deals fell through. Eighty-year-old Weetabix is Britain’s second biggest maker of breakfast cereals and cereal bars after Kellogg. Its brands include Alpen muesli and Ready Break as well as Weetabix, which lays claim to being Britain’s No. 1 breakfast cereal for under-5s and is made from wheat grown within 50 miles 80 km of its base in southern England.
“As China’s leading food group, we are pleased to become the controlling shareholder of Weetabix,” Bright Food chairman Wang Zhongnan said in a statement on Thursday. “Weetabix has an excellent product portfolio, including leading British cereal brand Weetabix and other category-leading brands. “Private equity owners Lion Capital and Weetabix management will keep a 40 percent stake. The quintessentially British breakfast cereal group was founded in 1932 by the secretive George family and soon producing its iconic bricks of wheat. It was bought by a private equity firm in 2004.
Bright Food now sees a big opportunity for Weetabix in China, where breakfast is a very important meal and there is a trend towards healthy eating.The group, which makes “White Rabbit” candy, bought majority stakes in Australias Manassen Foods and New Zealands Synlait Milk over the past two years.”