Dutch dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina plans to kick off the sale of its Friso infant nutrition brand in the coming weeks in a deal that could value the brand at as much as €2.2 billion, three people familiar with the situation told Reuters.
JP Morgan, advising FrieslandCampina on the sale, has sent out teasers to potential buyers including private equity firms and strategic suitors, the people said, adding the official process will likely start in early January.
A FrieslandCampina spokesperson said the company was researching "strategic options" for the Friso brand.
"Given large, important markets for infant nutrition, especially China, are developing rapidly at the moment, the goal of our strategic evaluation process is to ensure that the Friso business can continue to grow optimally in the future," the company said in response to Reuters' queries about the sale process.
JPMorgan declined to comment.
Infant Nutrition Powerhouse
With a history of more than 50 years, Friso is now a global infant nutrition brand with a presence in over 25 countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East, according to its website. It produces Friso Mum, Friso Gold and Friso Prestige milk formulas.
FrieslandCampina said in its half-year report that revenue of its specialised nutrition unit, which includes Friso, decreased by 14.9% to €516 million with operating profit down 84.2% year-on-year.
The cooperative attributed the unit's declining performance to the closure of the border between Hong Kong and mainland China, increased competition from domestic players in China and negative price development due to the declining dollar and increased raw material prices.
The sale of Friso Gold in mainland China and Hong Kong, in particular, decreased, it said. However, sales of Friso Prestige, its formula in the ultra-premium segment, grew in China.
British consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc in June sold its infant formula and child nutrition (IFCN) business in China to investment firm Primavera Capital Group for an enterprise value of $2.2 billion.