Global buyout bigwig wins bidding war for Arnott's

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Arnott's has finally found a purchaser. Pic: AFR
Arnott's has finally found a purchaser. Pic: AFR

Related tags Arnott's biscuits holdings Kohlberg kravis roberts Nabisco M&A Campbell soup company Mondelez Kraft heinz

Campbell Soup has agreed to sell Australia’s biggest biscuits company to voracious US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) - which purchased RJR Nabisco in 1988 - finally ending an auction process that lasted almost a year.

The sale price is understood to be A$3.14bn (US$2.2bn).

Arnott’s Biscuits Holdings – maker of popular snacks like Tim Tams, Mint Slice and Shapes – can trace its heritage back 172 years to a bakery in Newcastle opened by a Scottish baker William Arnott.

Arnott opened his first factory in 1874, selling his Ships Biscuits to long haul sea voyages. The company became a national brand with the launch of the Milk Arrowroot biscuit in 1882.

It formed a strategic alliance with Campbell’s in the 1970 to battle big US food conglomerates, such as Nabisco, which were taking a sizable bite out of the market.

Campbell's took full control in 1997.

Arnott’s Biscuits Holdings had A$1.64b in assets and reported revenue of A$1.04b and a net profit of A$76.5m for FY2018, up 14% from the year prior.

Bidding war

Several prospective bidders – including Mondelēz and Kraft Heinz – had been eyeing Arnott’s after Campbell’s put it on the table last year.

The auction descended into a two-horse race between KKR and Australia’s Pacific Equity Partners.

The transaction is part of Campbell’s move to offload its entire International division. Earlier this year, it divested one part of the up-for-sale portfolio – Denmark’s Kelsen Group – to Ferrero for US$300m.

KKR is not a long-term owner of companies and is likely to resell the Arnott's brand in time.

This is the firm’s second foray into the biscuit sector, having bought out RJR Nabisco in 1988 for $44bn, the largest leveraged buyout at the time.

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