Flowers confirms success in primary Hostess bid

by Josh Sosland
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THOMASVILLE, GA. — Flowers Foods, Inc. on Feb. 28 announced its stalking horse bid for the largest bread brands and related assets of Hostess Brands, Inc. was declared the highest and best bid, eliminating the need for an auction. Flowers stalking horse bid for the Beefsteak rye brand was topped by Bimbo Bakeries USA.

Included in the victorious bid were Hostess brands including Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Merita, Home Pride, and Butternut bread; 20 baking plants; and 38 depots. Flowers bid $360 million for the assets. The auction had been scheduled for the morning of Feb. 28.

“This transaction now moves to the next phase, which is a review and approval of Flowers’ bid by the bankruptcy court overseeing Hostess’ bankruptcy case at a hearing scheduled for March 19,” Flowers said.

In the case of its Beefsteak bid, Flowers said it chose not to increase its bid from $30 million after another buyer bid more. Bimbo Bakeries, which has not issued an official confirmation, was said to have bid $31.9 million.

“We are pleased Flowers won the bid for Hostess’ primary bread brands and bakeries without the need for an auction,” said George E. Deese, Flowers Foods’ chairman and chief executive officer of Flowers. “Now we move forward with the next step, which is the bankruptcy court review. Following that, the transaction will continue through the regulatory process before it can be finalized. We expect it could be several months yet before it’s finalized.”

Hostess will ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York to approve both transactions at a hearing on March 19.

“The proposed sales will result in significant proceeds for the benefit of the company’s stakeholders and ensure the beloved bread brands can continue to be enjoyed for years to come,” said Gregory F. Rayburn, chairman and c.e.o. of Hostess.

The results appeared to have fallen shy of the “intense and competitive” bidding Mr. Rayburn had predicted as part of a “robust, court-authorized auction process.” In a statement after the stalking horse bids had been announced, Mr. Rayburn painted a picture suggesting numerous potential buyers vying for the Hostess Brands assets.

“We look forward to competitive auctions to further drive value for all of the company’s stakeholders,” he said.

At least with the bread assets, no actual auctions were conducted. No bids above Flowers were qualified by the deadline date for the majority of the assets. In the case of Beefsteak, Bimbo’s bid was qualified and Flowers opted not to submit a bid in the auction scheduled for Feb. 28.

In an official statement issued by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union, David B. Durkee, president of the B.C.T.G.M., said Flowers Foods, Inc. will be successful in its acquisition of most of the Hostess Brands, Inc. bread business “if the company includes highly-trained and experienced B.C.T.G.M. members in its workforce.”

Mr. Durkee’s statement followed news that Flowers’ bid for the majority of the bread business had prevailed.

Mr. Durkee said the successful auction creates the possibility that “iconic brands” such as Wonder, Home Pride and Merita are “firmly on the path of getting back to business” so long as the B.C.T.G.M. remains part of the business. In his statement, Mr. Durkee obliquely acknowledged that the union historically has had a modest presence in the Flowers constellation of baking plants.

“The B.C.T.G.M. is integral to Flowers’ objective to restore these brands, as our members have the experience, expertise, and capability to provide ‘turn-key’ operations going forward,” he said. “Our goal is to preserve our members’ jobs and the legacy of these timeless bread brands. We’ve worked with Flowers on occasion in the past, and would hope to continue a positive working relationship with them.”

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