Juice bottler Refresco agrees French-Canadian buyout

 25 Oct 2017 - 22:02

AFP

The Hague:  Refresco, Europe's largest juice and soft-drink bottler, said Wednesday it had agreed a 1.6-billion-euro ($1.9-billion) takeover bid from a consortium of French and Canadian investors.

The Dutch independent bottler, which works with brands such as Innocent and Del Monte, had fended off an initial offer from the Paris-based PAI private equity firm in April worth 1.4 billion euros.

But following a higher offer by a consortium led by PAI and including British Columbia-based investors bcIMC, Refresco's management said Wednesday they had agreed "on a recommended cash public offer of 20 euros for all shares of Refresco".

The deal, which is 22 percent above the company's average share price since July, would value the company at 3.3 billion euros, said a joint statement issued by Refresco and the consortium of investors.

"This offer represents a fair value for our shareholders and is yet another milestone for the company," said Refresco chief executive Hans Roelofs, urging shareholders to accept the deal.

"We are convinced that this is a good transaction for the company and all stakeholders involved," he added.

Bloomberg News said the move was "another win in the recent wave of shareholder activism in Europe" as it said the deal was the result of an activist shareholder encouraging Refresco's management to reconsider a sale.

It added that multinationals from Nestle to Credit Suisse are confronting "demands for strategy shifts".

News of the accord comes after Refresco in July agreed to buy the soda business of the Canada-based Cott Corp for $1.25 billion (1.1 billion euros).

The consortium's offer for Refresco is subject to the acquisition of Cott being completed -- something which is set to happen by the end of 2017.

The Rotterdam-based company bottles soft drinks and fruit juices for retailers across mainland Europe, Britain and the United States.

It employs some 5,500 people and last year bottled some 6.5 billion litres of soft drinks and juice, earning a net profit of 82 million euros.

The offer will be formally launched in December, with Refresco due to hold an extraordinary annual general meeting of shareholders, with the aim of sealing the deal in the first quarter of 2018.

Markets reacted positively on Thursday with Refresco's shares on the Amsterdam AMX rising 2.4 percent by midday (1000 GMT) to 19.70 euros.