Bright Food Said to Prepare IPO of $1 Billion Distribution Arm

  • Australia distributor of Hellmann's mayonnaise to list in 2016
  • Food conglomerate to inject some Chinese assets into Manassen

Bright Food Group Co., the Chinese owner of the Weetabix cereal brand, is planning a Hong Kong initial public offering for its distribution arm Manassen Foods that could raise more than $200 million, people familiar with the matter said. 

The Shanghai-based food conglomerate has hired an investment bank to prepare a listing for Manassen next year, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. Manassen, which sells Babybel cheese, Carr’s crackers and Hellmann’s mayonnaise in Australia, could be valued at about $1 billion, the people said.

Manassen’s listing comes after a global acquisition spree by Bright Food that has seen it buy controlling stakes in Israeli dairy producer Tnuva Food Industries Ltd. and New Zealand’s Synlait Milk Ltd. First-time share sales in Hong Kong have raised $25.3 billion this year, up from $17.9 billion the same period in 2014, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“Bright Food may want to recoup some of the money it spent on overseas acquisitions,” Steven Leung, an executive director for institutional sales at UOB Kay Hian (Hong Kong) Ltd., said by phone Thursday. Manassen is “a steady business. Although it’s not going to give you explosive growth, it’s riding on the expansion of the Chinese middle class and their demand for quality foreign-branded goods.”

Danish Cookies

Bright Food plans to inject its controlling stake in Chinese food wholesaler Shanghai Qinzhou Trading Co. into Manassen before the share sale, in order to boost the valuation of the listing vehicle, two people said. Qinzhou Trading distributes Ferrero Rocher chocolate, Kjeldsens Danish butter cookies and Wrigley’s chewing gum in China, according to a 2012 announcement of Bright Food’s acquisition posted on a government website.

Pan Jianjun, a spokesman for Bright Food, said in a mobile-phone text message that preparations for a Manassen IPO are under way but details haven’t been finalized.

Bright Food, which is backed by the Shanghai government, is seeking acquisitions of companies whose goods can be sold in China and are suitable for future IPOs, chairman Lv Yongjie said in an interview in June last year. It bought 75 percent of Manassen for about A$400 million ($284 million) in 2011, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time. 

— With assistance by Vinicy Chan, and Steven Yang

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.