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Prospective buyers tight-lipped over Alpro sale

By staff reporter , 04-May-2009

Food giants Nestle and Unilever are keeping their cards close to their chest over reports that they are both bidding to acquire the soy foods company Alpro.

There has been speculation that both Nestle and Unilever are in the running after

Alpro’s owner Vandemoortele announced in January that is was putting its soy foods business up for sale with an estimated price tag of about €200m

 

However when asked what their plans were by FoodNavigator.com, both companies declined to comment.

 

Names such as Goupe Danone and PepsiCo have also been thrown into the mix but when asked, a PepsiCo spokesperson said they never comment on speculation and Danone did not respond to FoodNavigator.com’s request for comment ahead of publication.

 

Meanwhile Reuters reported on Wednesday that private equity sponsors that were investigating the possible acquisition of Alpro had withdrawn from the process, according to bankers close to the deal.

 

This is because trade buyers had reportedly been outbidding prospective private equity sponsors whose buying power had been curbed by economic turmoil.

 

This would leave only trade buyers in the running

 

Mintel describes Alpro as Europe’s leading producer of soya-based foods, selling under its core Alpro and organic Provamel brands.

 

The Alpro brand covers products such as yoghurts, milk alternatives and desserts and the business is geared towards the end consumer. Alpro’s turnover is around €260m euro.

 

Strategic shift

 

Vandemoortele said in a statement release earlier this year that it wanted to focus on the activities of its bakery (frozen bakery products) and lipids (margarines and fats) divisions.

 

These represent 80 per cent of the group’s turnover and are oriented towards professional and industrial customers. The aim is to further expand these activities in Europe.

 

Vandemoortele said that the financial and macro-economic environment had fundamentally changed during the end of 2008 and its strategic decision offered the “best opportunities for future growth to each of the three activities”.

 

It said: “The sale of Alpro and the ongoing capital increase of Group Vandemoortele will bring in the necessary resources to pursue the expansion in Bakery and Lipids.”

 

It also claimed: “Alpro is European market leader in soy food products and has realised a strong and profitable growth during the past seven years with its brands Alpro Soya and Provamel.

“Alpro meets two fundamental food trends, ie health and sustainable development.

“By splitting off its soy foods activities Vandemoortele wants to ensure the further successful growth of Alpro with a strong new partner.”

 

A spokesperson for Vandemoortele was unavailable for comment ahead of publication.

 

In March Vandemoortele announced that the Belgian private equity firm Gimv would invest €75m in the Vandemoortele group, providing capital for the ingredients firm to push further into its bakery and margarines and fats business.

 

In 2008 Vandemoortele strengthened its frozen bakery position in the European market through the bolt-on acquisition of French market leader Panavi last year.

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