Is Wessanen an attractive takeover candidate in organic foods?
- June 25, 2012
||proprietory origination, June 2012
||Royal Wessanen nv (Holland), European organic food producer
||candidates include ABF, Campbell Soup, Raisio
||shareholders of Wessanen
||'new frontier' growth categories (gluten-free, dairy alternative, organic)
||financial problems as group, acceptable valuation
||Wessanen claims leadership in organic foods in several high-value European markets
Wessanen has been a 'walking -wounded' public foods group, at least since it sold its private label RTE cereals unit in 2007. Its chronic under-performance cause it to possibly be a well-priced acquisition candidate for groups eager to expand in ambient -shelf organic foods in Europe. We suggest some buyers.
Through successive divestments and organic declines, Wessanenâs sales revenue has halved in the last five years (see profile). In Q1 2012 the group suffered a further fall in sales.
Ostensibly Wessanen is profitable (see chart). If however one was to take into account exceptional items and impairments, the groupâs EBITDA was slightly negative in 2011; profitability was also down in Q1 2012.
Despite the management âspeak about measures to improve performance, Wessanen is chronically in decline and under âdelivering, being reduced now to a focus on organic foods (with ethnic foods dropped since 2008).
Two-thirds of Wessanenâs sales are of (mostly ambient) organic foods, such as biscuits, rice-cakes, teas and spreads. According to the group, the European organic food market grew by 6% in 2011.
Historically handicapped by a dependence on health food stores, Wessanen has grown the share of (more âprofitable) grocery channel sales of organic foods, to around 50% of the total in 2011.
In terms of brands, the group boasts the no.1 organic foods position in the grocery segment in Holland (âZonnaturaâ) and France (âBjorgâ), as well as strong positions in certain categories in the UK (âKalloâ, âWhole Earthâ).
Assuming a 30% control premium over Wessanenâs y/e 2011 enterprise value, our takeover valuation of the group as a whole appears quite attractive to a strategic buyer (see valuation).
Thereâs also the low-hanging potential of non âcore divestments. Wessanenâs frozen snacks business could be sold to a private equity group now consolidating frozen foods in Europe, like Blackstone; the sale process for ABC in the US is apparently already in motion.
The core, organic foods business could be more successfully commercialized in mainstream grocery channels by ABF, whoâs already strong in ethnic foods. Other possible buyers include Campbell Soup, and Raisio of Finland.