Metro Starts Acquisition Hunt With Asian Foodservice Deal

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Metro AG, Germany’s largest retailer, said it’s hunting further targets after agreeing to buy Classic Fine Foods Group, a Singapore-based supplier of gourmet products, for as much as $328 million.

Private-equity company EQT will sell the business for an enterprise value of $290 million and an additional payment of as much as $38 million depending on its performance, Metro said Thursday. Classic Fine Foods distributes high-end items to hotels and restaurants in 25 cities, mostly in Asia. Metro shares rose as much as 6 percent, the most in six months.

“We continue to attack,” Chief Executive Officer Olaf Koch said in the statement. “With this acquisition, we leverage new sales and earnings potential.”

The deal marks a turning point for Metro. The retailer spent the past 3 1/2 years cleaning up its portfolio by divesting assets in Greece and Turkey, culminating in the announcement to sell Galeria Kaufhof department stores in June. Proceeds from the 2.83 billion-euro ($3.1 billion) sale, and from a separate deal in Vietnam will allow the company to become “more offensive” when seeking portfolio additions, Koch said.

Expensive Purchase

The acquisition is “small, logical, but expensive,” John Kershaw, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas in London, wrote in a note.

Metro shares rose 4.9 percent to 31.16 euros as of 12:07 p.m. in Frankfurt, valuing the Dusseldorf-based company at 10.2 billion euros.

Classic Fine Foods increases the number of countries where Metro has wholesale business to 36 from 26. The target’s annual sales exceed $200 million. Metro said it also plans to expand the business to some European Metro Cash & Carry markets.

“Future deals will likely be of similar size as Classic Fine Foods, or smaller, and they will occur more frequently,” the CEO said on a conference call. “We’ve been looking for a while, and we seek complementary targets that fit our business models. We have a top M&A team that has shown it can change our portfolio.”

The sale of aVietnamese wholesale business to TCC Holding Co. is set to close within nine months, Koch said. The CEO is trying to turn Metro around after he company’s earnings before interest, taxes and special items declined 4.5 percent in the first nine months of the retailer’s financial year. Like-for-like sales rose 1.6 percent.

Barclays advised Metro on the Classic Fine Foods transaction.

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