Callebaut-Natra chocolate plan turns sour

By Nick Hughes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Marketing, Strategic management, Barry callebaut

Barry Callebaut has confirmed it has ended negotiations with Spanish chocolate producer Natra over the integration of its European consumer chocolate business, citing differences over valuation.

The world’s biggest industrial chocolate producer had announced its intention in March to sell its consumer business to Natra in exchange for a minority stake of 45-49 per cent.

But a Barry Callebaut spokeswoman explained that in light of Natra’s recent business performance, which saw the company return a net loss in the first half of 2009, the valuation of the consumer business would have seen Barry Callebaut take a majority stake in Natra which, according to the spokeswoman “was never our intention”​.

Despite the Natra merger falling through, Barry Callebaut said it would continue to seek ways to divest its consumer division, which boasts brands such as Alprose and Sarotti.

“Our strategic decision to exit the consumer chocolate business remains unchanged,” ​said chairman Andreas Jacobs. “However, we are under no time or financial pressure. We will carefully analyse all strategic options to find the best possible solution.”

The spokeswoman said the company would “look at all possible options”​ and would not rule out a sale of the consumer chocolate business.

Industrial focus

On announcing the merger plan back in March, Barry Callebaut said it wanted to focus on its core, higher margin, industrial business. For the nine months to 31 May 2009, industrial sales volumes increased 6.1 per cent, compared with an 8.5 per cent fall in foodservice and retail volumes.

Had the merger taken place, Natra would have become a major player in the European private label chocolate market with sales of around €850m.

Its latest results for the first half of 2009 showed Natra returned a net loss of €8m amid slowing consumer demand in Europe.

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