BP sells feed arm for 355m pounds: CINVen consortium takes over in Europe's largest buyout in two years

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The Independent Online
BRITISH Petroleum is selling the bulk of its remaining nutrition interests to CINVen, Baring Capital Investors and senior BP Nutrition management in a deal worth dollars 550m ( pounds 355m), the largest buyout in Europe for two years.

In March BP said it was negotiating the sale to a consortium led by two venture capital houses, completing a disposal programme begun in 1992 when the group's fortunes were at their lowest ebb.

BP has so far raised dollars 1.5bn from the sale of its nutrition businesses over the past 18 months, exceeding initial analysts' estimates.

CINVen and Baring are paying dollars 425m for the assets, subject to final balance sheet adjustment. The new company, to be called Nutreco, is one of Europe's leading animal feed suppliers and the world's biggest aquaculture group, with sales of dollars 2.3bn in 1993. Banks will provide a further pounds 125m in working capital loans.

Under the terms of the buyout Nutreco will be financed two- thirds by debt and one-third by equity. CINVen and Baring will put up 82 per cent of the equity, senior Nutreco management are investing 11.5 per cent and mezzanine finance will provide the rest.

The Nutreco deal is the largest buyout in Europe since Forte sold control of its Gardner Merchant catering operation to management for pounds 342m in 1992.

Nutreco will be managed by the existing management team, led by the chief executive, Richard van Wijnbergen, previously chief operating officer of BP Nutrition. It will employ 5,700 people in 20 large operating companies headquartered in Boxmeer in the Netherlands.

Mr van Wijnbergen said that although head office functions had been slimmed down and layers of management cut out at a cost of up to 200 jobs, further efficiency gains were under review.

He said that although Nutreco businesses had long been established, the new company as such did not yet have a track record. Because of this a flotation or future sale of the company was unlikely for at least four years and may be as much as seven years away.

Nutreco, with 80 per cent of its sales in Europe and the balance in the Americas, has 50 per cent of the world market for fish feed for salmon and trout and operates salmon farms in Canada and Chile.

It is the largest private sector animal feed supplier in Europe. It is also a leader in processed poultry and pork and poultry and pig breeding stock.

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