Sat, Apr 12, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Olive oil giant picks UK firm’s bid

PIVOTAL PLAYER:Spain’s Deoleo selected Britain’s CVC Capital over a rival bid from IQ MIIC of Italy — Spain’s biggest olive oil rival, though a much smaller producer

AFP, MADRID

An olive tree stands in a field on the outskirts of Ronda, near Malaga, on Wednesday. Spanish olive oil bottler Deoleo said on Wednesday that British private equity firm CVC Capital Partners had made the best bid for the company.

Photo: Reuters

Spanish olive oil giant Deoleo said on Thursday it had picked British group CVC Capital’s takeover bid, which values the company at 439 million euros (US$605 million).

The board “decided to proceed to finalize the terms and conditions from today [Thursday] with CVC Capital Partners of the offer at a price of 0.38 euros per share,” the world’s biggest bottled olive oil group said.

The first phase of the takeover would see a purchase of 29.99 percent of Deoleo’s shares by the British venture capital firm.

Spain supplies about half of the world’s olive oil and the government views Deoleo, which owns brands such as Carbonell and Hojiblanca, as a pivotal player in the export business.

The company’s board backed CVC’s offer over a rival bid from IQ Made in Italy (IQ MIIC), a joint venture between Italian state investment fund FSI and its Qatari counterpart.

Media reports also named US private equity firms Carlyle and Rhone Capital, and France’s PAI Partners, as among seven bidders that put in offers.

Madrid said last week it was worried about foreign investors taking control of Deleo after four Spanish banks said they would put their combined 31.7 percent stake on the block.

Since then local media have reported that shareholders — including CaixaBank, Kutxabank, Unicaja and Dcoop — would keep their holdings to ensure that the firm remains Spanish-owned.

“The Spanish government does not want Deoleo to be broken up,” Spanish Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete said, adding that the government was following developments closely.

Of particular concern to the Spanish government was that one of the bidders for Deoleo was IQ MIIC. Italy is Spain’s biggest olive oil rival though a much smaller producer. A third of Spain’s olive oil output is shipped in bulk to Italy every year, where it is mixed with oil from other countries and bottled.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Wednesday he planned to ask Spain to treat foreign firms fairly in the Deoleo bidding process.

Deoleo ran into problems in 2009 after years of debt-fueled acquisitions. It has since been recapitalized, and it has cut its debt to about 500 million euros, or six times core earnings, from a previous level of 16 times core earnings.

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