Australia’s United Malt agrees $1 billion takeover offer from France’s InVivo

By Harish Sridharan

(Reuters) – United Malt Group Ltd said on Monday it agreed to a A$1.5 billion ($999 million) takeover offer from Malteries Soufflet, a branch of French agribusiness InVivo, in a deal that will likely create the world’s top malt producer.

The takeover would double the size of InVivo’s malt business three years earlier than planned, InVivo Chief Executive Thierry Blandinieres told Reuters when the offer was first announced in March.

Shares of United Malt jumped 9.1% to A$4.8 in early trading, 20 cents off the A$5 per share offer price. The stock was the top percentage gainer on the benchmark index.

The cash offer represents a 45.3% premium to United Malt’s closing price of A$3.44 on March 24, before the offer was first disclosed.

The deal now requires approval from Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) as well as United Malt’s shareholders to vote in support the transaction, among other regulatory requirements.

Australia has seen increased dealmaking this year, largely in contrast to the broader Asian region where the pressure of high interest rates has led to subdued mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity.

United Malt is the world’s fourth-largest commercial maltster, producing bulk malt for brewers, craft brewers, distillers and food companies. The company has processing plants in Australia, Canada, the United States and Britain.

Malteries Soufflet – one of the world’s biggest malt producers, operates 28 malt houses across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

United Malt Chairman Graham Bradley said in a statement that the company’s board believed the offer appropriately reflected the value of its asset portfolio and the anticipated improvement in its near-term earnings outlook.

The company’s board has unanimously recommended that its shareholders vote in favor of the proposal.

For InVivo, the acquisition is part of its aim to become the world’s top malt producer within five years through external growth. It acquired agribusiness peer Soufflet last year and signed an agreement in January to take over Belgian malthouse Castle Malting.

It did not respond immediately to a request for comment outside normal business hours.

($1 = 1.5011 Australian dollars)

(This story has been corrected to say gainer, instead of loser, in paragraph 3)

(Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Nick Zieminski and Jamie Freed)