Tags: Campbell | soup | sauces | CVC

Campbell Soup in Talks to Sell Some European Brands to CVC

Monday, 12 Aug 2013 02:20 PM

Campbell Soup Co. said it was in final talks to sell some of its brands in Europe to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners as it focuses on its core North American soup and meal business and high growth areas.

Under a turnaround effort led by Chief Executive Denise Morrison, the company has been revamping its soup and sauce offerings after several weak soup seasons in North America.

The company has simultaneously been acquiring brands in the fast moving perishables aisles located in the periphery of supermarkets, as opposed to the long shelf life packaged foods that are mainly stocked in the center aisles.

Campbell said the businesses it plans to sell include certain brands of soups, sauces and simple meals, such as Liebig and Royco in France, Erasco in Germany, Blå Band in Sweden and Devos Lemmens and Royco in Belgium.

The deal includes the sale of four plants in Puurs, Belgium; Le Pontet, France; Lubeck, Germany; and Karpalund, Sweden.

Campbell and CVC did not disclose the terms of the deal, but said the businesses generated annual net sales of about $530 million in fiscal 2012.

However, analysts at Janney Capital Markets estimated the deal would generate up to $750 million for Campbell.

The proposed deal does not include the export of Pepperidge Farm products throughout Europe or Campbell's products in the United Kingdom, the Middle East or Africa. It also does not include the recently acquired baked snacks maker Kelsen Group.

Campbell said in June it would acquire Denmark-based Kelsen to boost its international presence and drive baked snacks growth in China.

That deal followed other recent acquisitions, including that of baby food maker Plum Organics in May and a $1.55 billion deal to purchase Bolthouse Farms in July 2012, which added refrigerated juices and baby carrots to the company's portfolio.

Morningstar Inc. analyst Erin Lash said Campbell's portfolio realignment efforts have been geared more toward shaping its global footprint.

"However, these transactions fail to address the challenges that Campbell still faces in its domestic soup and beverage operations," Lash wrote in a note.

The company's mainstay businesses have been pressured by competition from private label supermarket brands and frozen foods.

However, Campbell posted stronger-than-expected results in its most recent quarter, boosted by the Bolthouse acquisition and newer offerings in soups and sauces.

The sale of the European businesses are expected to close in the current quarter, Campbell said.

Campbell is being advised by Allen & Overy LLP.

CVC is being advised by Leopold Capital Partners, Barclays, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Ernst & Young.

CVC said it had raised fully committed senior debt financing with Rabobank, ING and BNP Paribas Fortis as joint underwriters and bookrunners.

Campbell shares were trading flat at $47.72 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

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