Philippine food giant buys Australian snack maker

By AFP   August 17, 2016 | 07:02 pm PT
Worth $460 million, it's the latest big deal in a global shopping spree by Filipino firms.

Universal Robina Corp (URC) said it had sealed an agreement to buy Australian Snack Brands, maker of popular local brands including Kettles, Thins, CC’s and Cheezels for Aus$600 million ($460 million) as part of its ambitions to expand throughout the Asia-Pacific.

"With this acquisition, URC plans to create a wider footprint in Oceania with (Snack Brands) providing a solid anchor in the highly competitive Australian... market," chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei said in the statement.

Snack Brands was described in the statement as the second largest producer of salty snacks in Australia, and on its website said it made 200 million packets a year.

URC is one of the largest food and beverage companies in the Philippines and has a market capitalization of $9 billion.

It already has a large presence in Southeast Asian markets and in 2014 it bought 150-year-old New Zealand snack company Griffin's for NZ$700 million ($610 million).

Fuelled by one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, a host of cashed-up Filipino companies have in recent years embarked on global expansion plans that analysts say are the biggest ever seen from the Philippines.

Bargain prices in struggling economies abroad and rock-bottom borrowing rates have fuelled the acquisitions, according to analysts.

In 2015, local instant noodle firm Monde Nissin announced it had bought British meat substitute manufacturer Quorn for 550 million pounds ($833 million).

Two years earlier the Philippines' Del Monte Pacific acquired the consumer food business of unrelated, U.S.-based Del Monte Foods for $1.675 billion.

The Philippines' largest liquor producer, Emperador, has also spent about one billion dollars in recent years expanding into Europe with purchases of alcohol manufacturers Fundador of Spain and Scotland's Whyte and Mackay, among others.

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