United Biscuits Acquires Stake in Nigerian Cookie Maker A&P

United Biscuits Holdings Ltd. bought a stake in Nigerian cookie maker A&P Foods Ltd., the U.K. company’s second overseas investment in six months.

“We see Africa as one of our core pillars in this fast growing market,” Jeff van der Eems, chief executive officer of United Biscuits’ international operations, said by phone today. The A&P purchase is a “significant investment” and shows United Biscuits’ long-term commitment to the region, he said, declining to disclose the size of the holding and scale of investment in A&P.

United Biscuits has had a presence in Nigeria spanning several decades and to date has either exported products from the U.K. or had them manufactured locally under license.

Nigeria’s economy has expanded an average of 8.2 percent annually since 1999, pushing its per-capita income as of last year to $1,725 from $310 in 1999, according to IMF estimates. The West African nation has a population of about 170 million people, the most on the continent.

“The Nigerian market has strong potential for UB,” van der Eems said. “It is Africa’s most populous country and the biscuit market is projected to continue to grow at double-digit rates.” The company is also looking to grow more in East Africa and South Africa, he said.

International sales at the closely held maker of McVitie’s have tripled since 2006 and now account for about a fifth of total revenue. In October, United Biscuits said it purchased the assets of Rana Confectionery Products in Saudi Arabia.

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