Sales at Hero, the Swiss consumer foods and baking aids group, increased by more than 10 per cent in the first half of the year, helped by the acquisition of a majority stake in the German business of Schwartau in April.
Hero took a 51 per cent stake in Schwartauer Werke at a cost of SF268 million (€182.7m), adding the jam, muesli bar and baking aids businesses marketed under the Schwartau brand, and with an option to acquire the remaining 49 per cent from 2009, giving it time to raise the necessary cash from its own resources.
The brands acquired as part of the deal have an annual turnover of around €285 million, and they certainly contributed to the group's performance in the first half of the year, lifting sales to SF621.2 million during the six months. Operating profits for the same period were up 30.2 per cent to SF53.2 million, while net profits of SF34.7 million were 11 per cent higher than in the previous year thanks to the disposal of Hero's Dutch industrial business in February.
The acquisition of the Schwartau business will allow Hero to develop a pan-European strategy for its business, focused on its four main business areas: fruit products, muesli bars, baby food and baking aids. The company operates in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, as well as the US.
Stefan F. Heidenreich, Hero's chairman, said the opportunities for future growth within the EU were excellent, given the benefits of the single market. "Hero is now playing in the European premier league of food producers", he said. "Through this transaction, Hero has greatly strengthened its European market position vis-à-vis the trade and consumers. The transaction also lays excellent foundations for future profitable growth."