ISTANBUL, TURKEY — Yildiz Holding, a food and beverages maker that owns Ulker Biskuvi, has agreed to acquire London, England-based cookies and snacks maker United Biscuits from private equity firms Blackstone Group and PAI Partners. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but several media reports had the sales figure at about £2 billion ($3.2 billion).
The acquisition would make Yildiz the world’s third-largest biscuit maker and pave the way for the company’s expansion into new markets. Founded in 1944, Yildiz operates a variety of businesses primarily in the food sector (including Godiva Chocolate and DeMet’s Candy Co.), but also has businesses in finance, real estate, retailing and information technology. The company employs about 41,000 people and had revenue of about $5.5 billion in 2012.
“The addition of United Biscuits’ market-leading portfolio of brands will further strengthen Yildiz Holding’s position as a leading global consumer foods group, combining two highly complementary geographical footprints and opening significant opportunities for further growth,” said Murat Ülker, chairman of Yildiz’ board of directors. “We want to grow United Biscuits to be a global player as part of Yildiz. This will include enhancing its position in the UK, where Yildiz currently has minimal presence, so we will continue to invest in the UK and Europe. We are very excited to work with United Biscuits’ strong and experienced management team to achieve our aim of building the world’s leading biscuits business.”
United Biscuits is a leading manufacturer and marketer of biscuits in the UK and second largest in The Netherlands, France, Belgium and Ireland. The company’s brands include McVitie’s, Penguin, go ahead!, McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes, Jacob’s, Jacob’s Cream Crackers, Twiglets, Mini Cheddars and Carr’s in the UK, and BN, Delacre, Verkade and Sultana in Continental Europe. United Biscuits owns and operates 16 manufacturing facilities of which seven are in the UK
“United Biscuits is a great business and has been an excellent investment for us,” said Lionel Assant, European head of private equity at Blackstone. “Yildiz is the best home for the company and will allow U.B. to fulfil its international growth ambitions. I would like to thank United Biscuits’ management team for the way in which they have led the company and wish UB well under new ownership.”
Frédéric Stévenin, partner at PAI Partners, added, “United Biscuits is an iconic business with leading global brands. We are very proud to have been part of its development and wish everyone at the company continued successes over the years ahead.”
Commenting on the sale, Martin Glenn, chief executive officer of United Biscuits, said, “We look forward to being part of Yildiz as we continue to fulfil our growth potential both in the UK and abroad where we are looking to expand our share of the biscuit and snacking markets and where there is huge potential for all our brands. I would like to thank Blackstone and PAI for their support. They have been instrumental in helping grow the company over the last few years.”
Blackstone and PAI Partners acquired United Biscuits in 2006 for more than $3 billion. The groups tried unsuccessfully in 2010 to sell all of United Biscuits, but they came up short when a rumored deal with China’s Bright Food Group PLC fell through.
In addition to Yildiz, Battle Creek, Michigan, U.S.-based Kellogg Co. had been rumored as a potential buyer of the business. Kellogg owns Keebler, which United Biscuits acquired in 1974 and then subsequently sold to a private equity firm in 1995. Kellogg acquired Keebler in 2000.