Heinz gains NZ variety for pounds 184m

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The Independent Online
GOODMAN Fielder Wattie, the Australian food group that was once both bidder for and target of Ranks Hovis McDougall, is selling its New Zealand food operations to HJ Heinz.

GFW had planned to float the business, Watties, on the New Zealand stock exchange as part of its strategy of expanding its international food brands. But Michael Nugent, chief executive, said yesterday that the Adollars 428m (pounds 184m) offered by Heinz represented 'better value'. Flotation was expected to raise more than Adollars 350m.

The sale gives Heinz one of New Zealand's largest food businesses, with annual sales of NZdollars 750m (pounds 246m) from brands such as Tip Top frozen desserts and Best Friend pet foods as well as canned fruit, spaghetti and vegetables. Watties also exports to Australia and the Far East.

Heinz's Australian affiliate is already one of the largest food companies in the region, with sales of more than USdollars 170m (pounds 99m). Tony O'Reilly, Heinz's chairman and chief executive, said the acquisition offered the opportunity to expand its presence in the area.

GFW offered pounds 1.7bn for RHM in 1988, but abandoned the bid after a monopoly reference. A year later, RHM bid pounds 1.3bn for it, but later withdrew.

Hanson, the industrial conglomerate, launched a pounds 781m bid for RHM earlier this week.

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