Australia’s United Malt agrees to $1 billion takeover offer from France’s InVivo
By Harish Sridharan and Sybille de La Hamaide
(Reuters) -United Malt Group Ltd said on Monday it agreed to a A$1.5 billion ($999 million) takeover offer from Malteries Soufflet, a branch of French agribusiness InVivo, in a deal aimed at building the world’s top malt producer.
The move will allow Malteries Soufflet to expand its activities geographically and supply new markets, including China and Oceania, InVivo Chief Executive Thierry Blandinieres told Reuters.
“Joining both gives us a great platform to capture the growth of the beer market,” said Blandinieres, who expects the deal to close around October.
Shares of United Malt jumped 9.1% to A$4.8 in early trading, 20 cents off the offer price of A$5 a share. The stock was the top percentage gainer on the benchmark index.
The cash offer represents a premium of 45.3% to United Malt’s closing price of A$3.44 on March 24, before it was first disclosed.
The deal now needs approval from Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) as well as a vote in support by United Malt’s shareholders, among other regulatory requirements.
United Malt is the world’s fourth-largest commercial maltster, producing bulk malt for brewers, craft brewers, distillers and food companies. It has processing plants in Australia, Canada, the United States and Britain.
Malteries Soufflet, one of the world’s biggest malt producers, runs 28 malt houses across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.
The acquisition is part of InVivo’s effort to become the world’s top malt producer. It acquired agribusiness peer Soufflet last year and signed an agreement in January to take over Belgian malthouse Castle Malting.
It also intends to grow malt volumes organically, Blandinieres said.
In a statement, United Malt Chairman Graham Bradley said the company’s board believed the offer appropriately reflected the value of its asset portfolio and the anticipated improvement in its near-term earnings outlook.
The company’s board has unanimously recommended that shareholders vote in favour.
Australia has seen greater dealmaking this year, largely in contrast to the broader Asian region, where the pressure of high interest rates has damped mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity.
($1=1.5011 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru and Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris; Editing by Jamie Freed and Clarence Fernandez)