Tate & Lyle has signed an agreement to acquire an 80 per cent holding in German family-run specialty ingredients firm GC Hahn - the latest step in a refocusing on value-added ingredients in place of commodities.
Tate & Lyle's acquisition for a total cash consideration of £79m (€116m) will enable the ingredients giant to expand its offering of ingredients to its client base, particularly in texturants for the dairy and convenience foods sectors.
GC Hahn will sit particularly well in the Tate & Lyle fold alongside its Cesalpinia Food and Tate & Lyle Custom Ingredients - the two divisions that most closely mirror Hahn's core activities in stabiliser systems and customised ingredient solutions.
The manoeuvre will come as no great surprise to those who have been following the ingredients giant's recent strategising.
The company snapped up Italian natural gum and stabilizer maker Cesalpinia in December 2005 for £34m (€50m); at the same time it bought US developer of dairy stabilisers and emulsifiers Continental Custom Ingredients for £40m (€59m).
It became clear that these two purchases were not the end of the story last autumn, when Tate & Lyle said it was expecting to supplement its value added business through acquisition of more bolt-on ingredient companies.
In addition to building the company's ingredients portfolio, Tate & Lyle chief executive Iain Ferguson said the acquisition brings other benefits for the group - namely strengthen the European marketing presence, opening new opportunities for developing the Splenda Sucralose business.
The acquisition marks the end of an era for GC Hahn, which was founded in Luebeck, Germany, in 1848 and has been managed by five successive generations of the Hahn family. Although the former owner will retain a 20 per cent share, the agreement includes a provision for Tate & Lyle to acquire this in due course.
"In the meantime, Tate & Lyle will continue to have the support of the founding family in cementing the partnership between Tate & Lyle and Hahn [that has] commenced with this agreement," said the company.
The agreement, which is subject to antitrust approval by the German authorities, is expected to be completed by the end of May.
The flip-side of this pursuit for value-added assets is that, following a review of its businesses in the wake of the new EU sugar regime, the future of the company's TALFIIE (Food & Industrial Ingredients, Europe) division had become uncertain. Since it is now primarily a commodity-led business, TALFIIE is seen as non-essential in the context of the firm's over-arching focus and could be disposed - either in full or in part.
Meanwhile, acquisitions aside, Tate & Lyle is also investing in organic growth of its value-added assets. It recently announced that it is building a new €4m R&D centre in Lille, France, which is to focus specifically on ingredients for health, wellness and nutrition and will cater to the beverage, dairy, bakery and convenience sectors.
The centre is expected to be completed in September this year, and was described by Olivier Rigaud, vice president food ingredients, as a "major advance in our European value added strategy".
"The centre will also specialise in application and development work for Splenda sucralose, hydrocolloids, carbohydrates, proteins and Core ingredient solutions," said Rigaud.
Tate & Lyle - which has its headquarters in the UK - reported sales of £3.7bn (€5.4bn) in financial year 2006.