Private equity sells Obipektin and Overseal to Spanish biotech firm

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Related tags: Private equity, Private equity fund

UK private equity firm 3i will shed food ingredients business Braes
Group to Spanish biotech firm Natraceutical in a €80 million deal
announced last week, reports Lindsey Partos.

Formed in 1999, Braes is composed of different natural ingredients businesses, including Swiss extracts firm Obipektin and colours and yeast company Overseal.

In 2001, the group said it had the objective to achieve global sales of €290-€430 million in five years. But at €80 million, the Natraceutical deal would suggest the figures have fallen short.

3i stressed that the transaction has not yet been completed with Natraceutical, and still depends on the Spanish firm completing a process of due diligence and raising the necessary finance.

In a statement, Natraceutical said the operation will be financed with borrowings, adding that it will not take on board any debt with the acquisition.

The nutraceutical firm added that the move represents "the beginning of our project for growth through acquisitions of complementary firms in terms of products, technology, R&D, customers and markets."

3i pulls out of the venture despite growing evidence that suggests private equity is on the hunt for food and drink firms.

In fact, according to a report from 3i, private equity and venture capital invested in Europe's food and drink companies nearly doubled from €2.7 billion in 2001 to €4.5 billion in 2002.

The largest industrial sector in the EU, with a turnover of €799 billion in 2003 on 1.9 per cent growth on the previous year, the food and drink industry is attracting new investors through private equity.

Stocks in the industry have outperformed other industries in the past two years to 2003, but the industry is safe rather than exciting, claims the report.

Despite this, while overall investment volumes fell, the European food and drink industry has consistently pulled in more private equity funding than other industries, technology aside.

Reflecting the fundamentals of the report, the European food ingredients sector has already been marked by private equity acquisitions.

Earlier this month PAI partners paid a considerable €1.1 billion for a leading ingredients player, Chr Hansen. And in April a €197.5 million deal saw food and pharma group DSM shed low growth bakery ingredients operations to private equity firm Gilde.

Private equity fund EQT bought two dominant German-based flavour and fragrances manufacturers, Haarmann & Reimer and Dragoco in 2002, acquiring to fulfill top three player ambitions.

In 2003, Henkel, the German group providing branded consumer products and industrial systems, agreed to sell its chemical division Cognis to a consortium of financial investors comprised of Schroder Ventures, a European private equity specialist, and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, the private equity branch of Goldman Sachs.

In 2004 3i's European buy-out business deployed €842 million in 20 mid-market European buy-outs, as well as generating €1.3 billion in proceeds from 20 sales.

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