Biscuit maker Griffin's sold for $700m

JOHN ANTHONY AND MICHAEL FOREMAN
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2014

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The sale of New Zealand biscuit-maker Griffin's to a Philippines-based food giant for $700 million has nearly doubled its Australian owner's original investment in the company.

Universal Robina Corporation yesterday bought Griffin's from Pacific Equity Partners subject to Overseas Investment Office approval.

Griffin's, which employs 800 people, produces well known cookie jar favourites Gingernuts, Cookie Bear, MallowPuffs and Nice & Natural snack bars, from two factories in Auckland.

Griffin's chief operating officer, Alison Taylor, would become chief executive and executive chairman Ron Vela would be retained as a consultant, Griffin's said.

Taylor said she was confident URC would continue to invest in the New Zealand operation.

"That is why they are buying the business - for the manufacturing platform and the opportunities that provides for products in their markets."

Vela said the deal was good for New Zealand's workforce.

‘I just think they'll be investing forever. This is a gift in heaven for the New Zealand workforce, for the country itself," Vela said.

The Griffin's and Huntley & Palmers manufacturing centre in Papakura and the Eta and Nice & Natural factory in Wiri were well set up for future growth, he said.

"They are two state of the art facilities that are now well invested with plenty of capacity and technology available for growth."

URC, which has a market capitalisation of US$7.6 billion, have manufacturing facilities and distribution networks throughout Asia.

The acquisition by URC would provide a distribution network in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China from which to drive export growth, Griffin's said.

Taylor said Griffin's exports to 20 countries worldwide which accounts for about 35 per cent of total sales.

Over the next few years it aimed to increase exports to account for 50 per cent of sales, Taylor said.

URC would be Griffin's fifth successive foreign owner in more than 30 years.

PEP bought Griffin's from French food group Danone in 2006 for $385m. Two years later the company's Lower Hutt factory was closed with the loss of 228 jobs. In 2007 PEP spent $180 million investing in its two Auckland factories and acquiring the Nice & Natural business.

Griffin & Sons was established in Nelson in 1895 and production was moved to Lower Hutt in 1938, with an additional factory in Papakura opening in 1967.

URC, which was founded in 1954, claims to be the leading branded snack foods and beverage company in the Philippines.

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In its last financial year the company posted net income of 10.3 billion Philippine pesos (NZ$272m) on revenue of 81b Philippine pesos.

BRAND HISTORY

Griffin's was founded by John Griffin in 1864 as a flour and cocoa miller in Nelson. After a fire destroyed the original factory in 1895, the company went public to raise money and was renamed Griffin & Sons.

New Zealand ownership ended in 1962 when United States food giant Nabisco bought the company.

Nabisco sold Griffin's to Britannia foods in 1990 which onsold the company to French food multinational Groupe Danone in the same year.

Griffin's confectionery business was sold to Cadbury in 1990 in exchange for the Hudson Biscuit business, including the factory at Papakura and brands such as Chocolate Chippies, Shrewsburys, ToffeePops, Sultana Pasties and Squiggles.

Australian corporate raiders Pacific Equity Partners bought Griffins in 2006 for $385 million and has now sold the business to Philippines-based Universal Robina Corporation for $700m.

Source: Griffin's

TASTY TREATS

Some of Griffins' brands:

Gingernuts

Cookie Bear

Mallow Puffs

Chit Chats

Huntley & Palmers crackers

ETA foods

Source: Griffin's

- The Dominion Post

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