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China’s Bright Food Denies Report on Weetabix Acquisition

China’s Bright Food Denies Report on Weetabix Acquisition
A customer places a packet of Weetabix breakfast cereal, produced by Weetabix Ltd., into a shopping cart in this arranged photograph at a supermarket in Slough. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Bright Food Group Co., China’s second-largest food company, denied media reports that it is in talks to buy British cereals maker Weetabix Ltd. from private equity firm Lion Capital.

“We are not in talks” with Lion Capital, Pan Jianjun, a Shanghai-based spokesman for Bright Food, said over the phone today. A spokeswoman for Lion Capital in London, who asked not to be named, declined to comment.

Bright Food has been in negotiations for several weeks with Lion Capital, owner of Weetabix, about a possible purchase, which would value the maker of Ready Brek and Alpen cereals at around 1 billion pounds ($1.61 billion), the Telegraph newspaper reported today. The Sunday Times also reported that Bright Food was considering a Weetabix acquisition.

Bright Food, backed by the Shanghai government, has been actively seeking overseas food acquisitions and aiming to feed the growing appetite of Chinese consumers whose disposable income is rising. The company last year agreed to buy 75 percent of Australia’s Manassen Foods from Champ Private Equity.

Chairman Wang Zongnan said in an interview in February that he expects to make one to two overseas acquisitions this year in sugar, dairy, wine and casual food industries.

Bright Food, which has interests that span food and beverage, farming and retailing, lost out to General Mills Inc. for a stake in French yogurt maker Yoplait last year and was outbid by Wilmar International Ltd. for CSR Ltd.’s sugar unit, Australia’s largest producer in 2010.

Weetabix, which is founded in 1932, currently employs about 2,000 people and exports to more than 80 countries, according to its website. In 2004, a unit of Lion Capital acquired all of the issued share capital of Weetabix, the website shows.

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