Weetabix gobbled up by US consumer group Post Holdings in tasty $1.76bn deal

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Weetabix launched its high-protein version in a bid to expand sales (Source: Weetabix)

Iconic British cereal brand Weetabix has been bought by a US consumer group.

Post Holdings will buy the brand for £1.4bn ($1.76bn) from Shanghai-based Bright Food and private equity firm Baring Private Equity Asia.

The deal, announced before the start of New York trading, came at a lower price than earlier rumours of a £1.5bn price.

Read more: US firm wants to have its Weetabix and readies £1.5bn bid

Post Holdings is a food group based in St Louis, Missouri. It controls a wide range of US cereal brands, including Grape Nuts, Golden Crisp, and Bran Flakes.

It beat off competition from other food giants such as Nestle, PepsiCo and General Mills.

Post said it expects to expand the Weetabix brand in North America. The firm said it hopes to pursue "cost synergies" of £20m per year, although City A.M. understands this will not entail job cuts in the UK, with Post using its existing distribution channels to push Weetabix to US consumers.

Unite, the union, said it has asked for an urgent meeting with the new American owner of Weetabix to seek assurances about job security.

Unite regional officer Sally Mortimer said: “We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the new owner to seek assurances on job security and to ascertain the business plan going forward."

Weetabix's current director of marketing, Sally Abbott, will become managing director of Weetabix UK and Ireland, while Giles Turrell, Weetabix’s current chief executive, will take the new role of chairman of Weetabix with "responsibility for overseeing the integration of Weetabix into the Post portfolio", Post said in a statement.

Rob Vitale, Post’s president and chief executive, said: “We have long admired Weetabix as a leader in cereal and believe it will be a fantastic strategic fit within Post.”

He added: “Combining together two category leaders continues our strategy of strengthening our portfolio in stable categories and diversifying into new markets, bringing much-loved brands to significantly more customers globally. We are excited about the growth opportunities that this acquisition brings.”

The cereal company, which has operated since 1932, also controls the Alpen, Ready Brek and Weetos brands, amongst others.

In January the firm announced plans to increase production at its Burton Latimer and Corby sites over the next year, adding manufacturing jobs at a time some companies are holding back on investment.

Read more: Weetabix reveals healthy appetite for investing in British manufacturing

Weetabix was bought in 2012 by Bright Food, which bought a 60 per cent stake from Lion Capital in a deal that valued the brand at £1.2bn. Baring Private Equity Asia bought the remainder of Lion’s stake in 2015.

Goldman Sachs ran the sale process for Bright Food.

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