Reckitt Benckiser to put food business on the block

by Eric Schroeder
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Reckitt Benckiser - French's Mustard and Frank's Red Hot Sauce
Reckitt Benckiser’s food business includes French’s mustard and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.

LONDON — Reckitt Benckiser, which earlier this year announced plans to acquire the Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. for $17.9 billion, is considering a sale of its food business to help pay down debt.

Reckitt’s food business includes French’s mustard and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. The business is valued at approximately £2.4 billion pounds ($3 billion), according to The Sunday Times.

In an April 3 research report, Credit Suisse said Reckitt’s food business — which generates about $580 million in sales and $165 million in operating profit — may be “a perfect fit” for Baltimore-based McCormick & Co.

Robert Moskow, Credit Suisse
Robert Moskow, research analyst with Credit Suisse

“McCormick’s premium stock price and its ability to generate synergies would give it more buying power than competing bidders (Perhaps B&G?),” Robert Moskow, research analyst with Credit Suisse, wrote in the report. “Plus the management teams know each other. Synergies would be maybe 3% of sales if the transaction comes with just supply chain assets and no administrative overhead. Even if just 3% synergies, and even if McCormick financed half of the transaction with stock, an acquisition would still be something like 20c to 30c per share on an earnings base of $3.70.”

Mr. Moskow said a potential purchase of Reckitt’s food business is reminiscent of McCormick’s $600 million acquisition of the Lawry’s brand from Unilever in 2007.

“That transaction generated roughly 12c of accretion and sent the stock up 8% when it was announced,” he said. “We look forward to hearing more from McCormick management on how it views this possibility with Reckitt at its investor day Tuesday (April 4).” 

Media reports also have mentioned Kraft-Heinz Co. and Unilever as potential suitors for Reckitt’s food business.

In February, Reckitt announced its intent to acquire Mead Johnson, a move the company’s chief executive officer said would propel the company forward in its journey as a leader in consumer health.

“This is a natural extension to R.B.’s consumer health portfolio of “powerbrands,” which are already trusted by millions of mothers, reinforcing the importance of health and hygiene for their families,” Rakesh Kapoor, chief executive officer of Reckitt Benckiser, said at the time. 
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