Del Monte to Go Private Again

Publicly held Del Monte Foods Co., San Francisco, agreed in late November to be taken private by an investor group led by funds affiliated with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Vestar Capital Partners and Centerview Partners. They offered $19 per share in cash, a total of nearly $4 billion, plus they agreed to assume $1.3 billion in debt.

The per-share price was 40 percent over Del Monte's average closing price during the three months prior to Nov. 18, when market rumors of a transaction began, and also is higher than any price the company's stock has ever achieved. Even the $4 billion total is slightly higher than Del Monte’s total sales -- $3.7 billion -- for its fiscal 2010, which ended May 2.

The transaction unanimously was approved by Del Monte's board of directors. The agreement permits Del Monte to solicit proposals from third parties through Jan. 8, 2011. If there is not a superior offer, the transaction is expected to close by the end of March 2011.

"This transaction delivers substantial shareholder value and is a clear endorsement of Del Monte's strategic success and effective execution,” said Richard Wolford, chairman and CEO of Del Monte Foods. “The hard work and dedication of our talented team has helped to transform Del Monte from a $1 billion consumer foods business into a branded pet and consumer products company with more than $3.7 billion in revenues. This transaction will enable our company to continue to successfully grow.”

"Over the last decade, Rick and the entire Del Monte team have built a unique platform based on powerful brands," said Jim Kilts, Centerview's co-founder and former CEO of Kraft, Nabisco and Gillette. "We are truly excited to partner with Del Monte as the company continues to build on its rich heritage of delivering high quality products to consumers at attractive prices."

Del Monte plans to maintain corporate headquarters in the Bay Area as well as a presence in Pittsburgh.

Del Monte has a history of being bought and sold, public and private. In 1979 it was bought by R.J. Reynolds (later RJR Nabisco), sold in 1990 to Merrill Lynch, sold in 1997 to Texas Pacific Group, and went public in 1999. It nearly tripled in size with the 2002 acquisition of pet food, seafood, soup and baby food businesses from H.J. Heinz.

Del Monte pet food brands include Meow Mix, Kibbles 'n Bits, Milk-Bone, 9Lives and Gravy Train, and food brands include Del Monte, Contadina, S&W, College Inn and others. The company also makes private label pet and food products. But fresh fruits and vegetables are marketed by a separate company, Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.

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