Del Monte Foods on Thursday agreed to be bought by a group led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co in a deal worth about $4 billion excluding debt, the latest in a flurry of private equity transactions. The $19 per share offer for the company, which makes Meow Mix cat food, Milk-Bone dog biscuits and canned vegetables, represents a 5.6% premium over Del Monte’s closing stock price of $17.99 on Wednesday, and a premium of about 23% over its opening price on November 18, when media reports about a possible deal began circulating. Del Monte’s stock has surged 62% this year. Vestar Capital Partners and a fund run by Centerview partner James Kilts will join KKR in the deal, which ranks as one of the largest US leveraged buyouts of the year. The three partners will assume about $1.3 billion in Del Monte’s debt. When including the debt, the company said the deal value is $5.3 billion. Del Monte can try to solicit high offers until January 8, 2011 during a so-called ‘go shop’ period. Del Monte said it expects the deal to close in March if it gets no higher bid. It also said it plans to keep its headquarters in San Francisco. In September, Del Monte cut its full-year sales forecast due to higher rebates paid to retailers to spur consumer spending. In July, Del Monte first cut its sales estimates for the year.
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