Dutch company buys controlling stake in Austrian processor on EC say-so

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

Potato processor Lamb Weston/Meijer (LWM) said it has completed a deal to buy a controlling stake in Austrian outfit Frisch & Frost (F&F) after being given the go-ahead by Brussels.

The European Commission gave its approval for the takeover after an investigation concluded the transaction would not “significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA)”.

F&F produces deep-frozen potato and dough products and supplies the food service sector, fast food chains and the retail sector in Austria. The company has a limited presence in central and south-eastern Europe markets. It owns one potato and two dough plants in Austria with net sales of approximately €70m, employing 280 people.

“The agreement for the deal was signed in May but it was only closed yesterday after we got permission from the EC,”​ LWM managing director Bas Alblas told FoodProductionDaily.com.

Under the terms of the deal, the Dutch company, jointly owned by US-based ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston and Meijer Frozen Foods, now has a 74 per cent stake in F&F. No financial details were available.

The remaining shares have been retained by former majority owner Austria-based RWA International Holding - a trading and services group that sells agricultural and consumer products in Austria, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

“This is fairly common transaction in Austria called the 75 – 1 per cent rule,”​ said Alblas. “It allows the RWA to have some say in the firm but all day-to-day decisions will be made by us.”

Expansion

LWM said it is Europe’s leading manufacturer of deep-frozen potato products and dehydrated potato flakes, serving the Netherlands, France, Germany, UK, Spain and Italy. The company operates three plants in the Netherlands and one in the UK, with an annual capacity of more than 600,000 tons of finished products. It has a turnover of €400m and approximately 1,100 employees.

The Dutch firm said the agreement would boost its production network in southern and Eastern Europe, while F&F welcomed the move saying it would gain from the LWM’s processing expertise.

“We will be assessing the potential for F&F over the next 6-12 months in terms of market expansion and possible extra investment needs,”​ added Alblas.

Explaining its decision yesterday the EC said the “post-merger the market for the supply of deep-frozen potatoes would remain competitive as the overlaps between the parties’ activities are limited…due to the presence of a number of alternative, well-established suppliers in the EEA”.

Related topics: Manufacturers

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