Buffett, Brazil's 3G team up for $23 billion Heinz buyout
By Ben Berkowitz and Martinne Geller
(Reuters) - Warren Buffett and Brazilian financier Jorge Paulo Lemann are teaming up to buy ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Co for $23.2 billion, in what could be the first step of a wave of mergers for the food and beverage industry.
Analysts and people close to the deal said Heinz could be a good starting point to consolidate similar staple food companies, particularly given the larger ambitions of Lemann's private equity firm 3G Capital.
Including debt assumption, Heinz valued the transaction, which it called the largest in its industry's history, at $28 billion. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G will pay $72.50 per share, a 19 percent premium to the stock's previous all-time high.
Heinz shares initially rose slightly above the offer price, although Buffett cautioned he had no intention of raising his bid and the stock fell back below that mark by midday. The stock has been on a tear, almost doubling over the last four years, though analysts said the price seemed fair.
They also said the deal could be the first step in a broader wave of mergers for the food and beverage industry.
"Maybe for the consumer staples group in general this may start some talk about consolidation. Even corporate entities are flush with cash, interest rates are low, it would seemingly make sense," Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo said.
Companies like General Mills and Campbell Soup - itself long seen as a potential Heinz merge partner - rose on the news.
Any acquisition could help Heinz further diversify and broaden its international profile. It already dominates the ketchup business, with a nearly 26 percent share of the global market and a 59 percent share domestically, according to Euromonitor International. Continued...