DB, Tegel may come to market

Corporate changes in Australia could see iconic Kiwi brewing and food brands put up for sale.

A sale of brewer DB could ease pressure on Heineken's balance sheet after it spent A$4 billion to buy out food and beverage conglomerate Fraser & Neave's stake in Asia Pacific Breweries, the Australian Financial Review reports.

Such a sale may also provide a vehicle for Coca-Cola Amatil to achieve its stated ambition of re-entering the Asia-Pacific beer market.

Meanwhile, just two years after it was transferred between private equity owners, Tegel Foods could be back in play if its current owner, Affinity Equity Partners, buys Australian chicken processing giant Ingham's.

The deadline for indicative offers for Bob Ingham's empire is tomorrow and Affinity has emerged as the favourite after rival private equity firms KKR and Pacific Equity Partners were said to be losing their appetite for chicken.

Any deal with Affinity, however, is likely to be complicated because Affinity would have to sell some of its poultry assets in New Zealand to overcome competition concerns.

Affinity's Tegel Foods, acquired from PEP for A$470 million in 2010, controls more than 40 per cent of the New Zealand chicken meat market while Ingham's NZ is the No 2 player with around 35 per cent.

The New Zealand Commerce Commission has been known to take a more pragmatic approach to mergers and acquisitions than its Australian counterpart, but it's thought unlikely it would allow Affinity to control almost 80 per cent of the market. Affinity may have to sell its Ingham NZ assets or a mix of existing Tegel and new assets to gain Commerce Commission approval.

Coca-Cola Amatil chief executive Terry Davis has already engineered the company's return to the beer market in Australia by entering a proposed joint venture with winemaker Casella, which is now making Arvo beer.

Australian industry sources say the purchase of DB, which has four breweries, would make CCA the second-largest player in the New Zealand beer market behind Lion and give Davis more clout in his campaign to snare licensing deals with global brewers, although the bottler was non-committal last week.

DB may also prove attractive to Asahi, which outlaid $1.5b for New Zealand-based Independent Liquor last year and is looking at ways to improve returns. Cost synergies could be as high as A$30m.

Fosters/SABMiller, which is keen to plug the sales gap triggered by the loss of licensed brands such as Corona to Lion, may also be interested in the DB assets.

Bob Ingham is believed to be seeking more than seven times earnings for his company, which is said to have better margins and a lower cost base than its peers. Based on forecast ebitda of A$210m, the business could fetch more than A$1.5b making it one of the biggest deals this year.

Management presentations are due to start in the second round. Bidders will no doubt to be keen to establish the strength of Ingham's relationships and contracts with major customers such as Woolworths and the outlook for margins as feed costs soar and retailers cut protein prices to draw shoppers.

Sunday Star Times