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Bright Food to Focus International Growth Push on Australia

Bright Food Group Co. will focus its international expansion in Australia where China’s second-largest food company is said to have spent about A$400 million ($425 million) this month to gain grocery brands.

“Recently quite a few Australian businesses came to us on their own to talk about potential cooperation,” Vice President Ge Junjie said today in Sydney at a signing ceremony for the acquisition of Manassen Foods. “Australia is the area where we are going to focus more.”

The Manassen deal, which includes Australian distribution of McVities biscuits and Sharwood’s curry, follows failed acquisition attempts in Europe and Australia. Bright has said it may buy overseas assets in sugar, wine and the manufacturing and distribution of food as it aims to increase sales from outside China to as much as 30 percent of revenue in five years.

Ge didn’t name any companies or assets as targets.

Bright agreed to buy 75 percent of Manassen on Aug. 17, without stating how much it would pay. On Aug. 15 two people familiar with the matter said Bright will pay about A$400 million to buy the stake from Champ Private Equity.

Funds advised by Champ and members of Manassen’s senior management team will own the rest of Manassen Foods, which has brands including Albatros bread and Harringtons chocolates.

Manassen ‘Platform’

“We are going to use the Manassen partnership as a very, very important platform for both Australia’s market and China’s market,” said Ge, who is also chairman of Bright’s Shanghai Sugar Cigarette and Wine (Group) Co. unit.

Bright lost out to General Mills Inc. for a stake in French yogurt maker Yoplait earlier this year and was outbid by Wilmar International Ltd. for CSR Ltd.’s sugar unit, Australia’s largest producer, in 2010.

It inquired last year about acquiring GNC Holdings Inc., the retailer of vitamins and supplements, before the Pittsburgh-based chain raised $360 million in an initial public offering.

Bright Food, controlled by the Shanghai city government, has interests that span food and beverage, farming and retailing. It was established by merging four state-owned companies in August 2006.

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