Reasons why Coke's serious about buying Nidan in Russian juices
- January 25, 2010
||acquisition rumours, January 2010
||Nidan Juices JSC (Russia), no.4 domestic fruit juice producer
||candidates include Coca-Cola and Wimm-Bill-Dann
||Lion Capital (UK), private equity firm focused on consumer products, plus Nidan founders
||protecting no.2 position in Russian market (Coke), new domestic geographies and brands (Wimm-Bill-Dann)
||early exit, defensive timing
||Coca-Cola is rumoured to be in talks with Lion Capital to acquire Nidan 'this year'
When we first addressed this origination, a year ago, we believed that Lion Capital would be under pressure to sell Nidan early due to competitive pressures, and that Eckes -Granini is the most likely buyer. Eckes however then withdrew from the Russian market. So we ask whether Coca-Cola is interested mainly for defensive reasons, in the face of rival interest from an ascendant Wimm-Bill-Dann.
Lion Capital invested in Nidan only two years ago, so in theory itâs too early to seek an exit. However, it seems that consolidation forces are very strong in Russia, with both Coca-Cola and Pepsico committing huge sums to dominating its juice market.
In addition, that marketâs growth rate is slower now, increasing those competitive pressures.
So the risk for Lion Capital is that, in a few yearsâ time, Nidan will be a falling knife which only bargain âseeking investors will want to buy.
Coca-Cola made the first big M&A move, by acquiring Multon, Russiaâs no.2 juice producer with about 23% market share, in 2005 (see chart, source: Business Analitika)
Subsequently, Lion Capital made its investment in Nidan, Russiaâs no.4 player, with about 14% national share and dominance in Siberia.
But then Pepsico trumped both Coke, and in particular Nidan, by acquiring the no.1 player in Russia with about 33% share, Lebedyansky, in 2008.
Both Pepsico and Coke paid a lot of money to take the top two spots in the Russian juice market. Pepsico paid nearly US$ 1,5 bln, equivalent to x2,5 Sales, to gain control of Lebedyansky; three years earlier Coke had paid about US$ 500 mln, equivalent to x1,5 Sales, for Multon.
To get a decent return on their investment, the priority for these two majors will be big corporate stuff - rationalising the brand portfolios, focus on mainstream juice categories, supply chain optimisation etc.
With this major investment project, in a falling market in US$ terms, one might ask why would Coke seriously contemplate buying Nidan at this time also ?
Especially when it's not a group that likes to collect brand portfolios, and especially when the threat from Eckes acquiring it has disappeared.
One option is for Nidan to merge with Wimm-Bill-Dannâs juice business. However, Lion Capital is likely to avoid such a relatively complex and risky option, unless it's a full sale of Nidan to Wimm-Bill-Dann.
But that's a possibility in financial terms, with WBD posting strong growth in its EBITDA margin and a net debt ratio of less than x1,5 in Q3 2009.
Another factor possibly supporting such an outcome is that Danone is a strategic minority investor in WBD.
It could be that this is Coca-Cola's fear; that a bigger national champion will emerge and challenge the group in price terms. That combination would have a market share of about 33%, placing it neck-and-neck with Pepsico and putting Coke into a relatively weak third place.
A process similar to that has emerged e.g. in Poland, where the two big domestic players, Tymbark and Agros Nova, grew by acquisition and now dominate the market.