【英语财经】中国对海外食品企业“胃口大开” China’s hunger for foreign food groups soars

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2014-6-11 07:00

小艾摘要: China’s appetite for buying international food producers has grown at a record pace so far this year, reflecting growing middle-class hunger for a more affluent diet in the world’s second-biggest ec ...
China’s hunger for foreign food groups soars
China’s appetite for buying international food producers has grown at a record pace so far this year, reflecting growing middle-class hunger for a more affluent diet in the world’s second-biggest economy.

Outbound mergers and acquisitions in the food and beverage industries accounted for 17 per cent of total M&A in China in the year to date, almost on a par with the 20 per cent from the energy and power sector – traditionally the biggest deal generator, according to Thomson Reuters.

The targets include Hollick, the Australian winemaker, and Tnuva, the Israeli cheese and consumer foods supplier, as well as the trading arms of companies involved in the pricing and flow of agricultural raw materials around the world.

The shopping spree comes a year after US pork producer Smithfield Foods was gobbled up by Shuanghui International, now known as WH Group, in a $7bn deal that remains the largest ever outbound acquisition by a Chinese company, according to Thomson Reuters.

Yang Zhizhong, chairman and chief executive of Nomura China, says: “There is an upward trend in China’s overseas investment in the consumer sector which will grow at a much faster rate than its investment in other sectors – including natural resources.”

The reason for the wave of dealmaking is China’s transition from an export-led economy hungry for energy, natural resources and infrastructure into one driven by a surging consumer class.

In a special report on changing food consumption patterns in China published on Friday, the World Bank said that the country’s rapid growth over the past three decades had “vastly improved diets”.

Each person is eating on average 40 per cent more calories a day than in 1980 with a “shift to a more ‘affluent’ diet” – away from basic staples to livestock-based products, such as meat and dairy.

“Over the next two decades per capita food consumption will continue to grow rapidly, with somewhat faster growth during the coming decade, driven by income growth,” according to the World Bank.

Growing wealth is also leading to demand for better quality and safe, reliably-produced food – which some western brands are perceived as offering – after several scandals involving tainted food, including baby formula.

Wan Long, chairman of WH Group, cited “Smithfield’s leading production and safety protocols to provide safe, high-quality products”, and its higher-margin pork products – such as ham and sausages, increasingly favoured by Chinese consumers – as key attractions of the US company during the takeover.

Nomura’s Mr Yang says: “As China’s middle class becomes richer, their taste for goods and services will become more sophisticated. Local supply is not sufficient, so they have to look outside of China. Food security and safety has been a pivotal issue for China. With abundant capital, China would rather buy than simply import.”

Many Chinese acquirers are national state-owned bodies, such as grain trader Cofco, which recently spent $1.5bn on a stake in a sugar, soyabean and wheat joint venture with Noble Group, the Singapore-based commodity group.

A second group of buyers belong to local governments. These include Bright Food, owned by the Shanghai municipal government, which has already bought Weetabix, the UK breakfast brand, and last month paid just under $1bn for a controlling stake in Tnuva.

Private sector companies such as WH Group have also become active, and all the buyers’ overseas shopping lists are selective.

“Chinese companies are looking for opportunities which make the most strategic sense,” says Camillo Greco, head of M&A advisory for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at JPMorgan. “We see them acquiring businesses for technology and competencies they don’t have or for a brand that they can develop in China.”

Bright Food has said that one of its target areas is modern agriculture – one reason for its interest in Tnuva. It has also said it is looking for dairy, sugar and sweeteners and spirits and wine.

Lacking the expertise to manage companies, bankers say that Chinese buyers are also becoming more comfortable with keeping existing management in place.

Florian Fautz, global head of M&A at HSBC, says: “They are also going into situations where they acquire minority positions. They are not necessarily just looking for 100 per cent stakes any more.”

But for even greater outbound investment to take off more needs to be done at a policy level to integrate China into the global economy.

Mr Fautz says: “Europe continues to drive a lot of interest and there are strong economic ties between China and EU, which is its largest trade partner in the developed world. A bilateral investment treaty would make investment flows much easier.”

Weetabix eyes Chinese breakfast tables

When Weetabix announced its launch into mainland China at a recent Shanghai trade show, its stand was topped by a cardboard canopy in the shape of a huge, gold crown.

The display – trading on the British breakfast cereal-maker’s royal warrant – sent out a simple message: if Weetabix is good enough for the Queen of England, what better guarantee of safety and quality for Chinese consumers?

That was in the back of the mind of executives at Bright Food, the Chinese state-backed group, when it acquired a controlling stake in the 82-year old cereal brand two years ago.

Bright Food also hopes to exploit growing domestic demand for health-oriented foods, since Weetabix also owns Alpen muesli and Ready Brek porridge oats. “Chinese consumers have the chance to have authentic, healthy and British-style breakfast cereals,” said Bright Food at November’s launch of Weetabix into 4,000 outlets in the Shanghai region.

“Food safety is a big issue, and in addition the middle class in China, particularly in cities such as Shanghai, aspire to western brands,” says Giles Turrell, Weetabix chief executive.

But adapting a western brand to Chinese local tastes takes time and research. While British consumers usually pour cold milk into cereal, which is often sweetened, the Chinese prefer a hot, savoury and often rice-based, breakfast.

“We’ve gone into Chinese homes and eaten breakfast with families. We’ve even been on breakfast safaris – following consumers to work to study their breakfast habits,” said Mr Turrell. “The traditional Chinese breakfast can take a lot of time to make. So we believe there is a role for western-style breakfast, which is much quicker to prepare.”

The Chinese ready-to-eat breakfast market is dominated by Switzerland’s Nestlé and General Mills of the US, according to data from Euromonitor.

Torsten Stocker, partner at consulting firm AT Kearney, says: “If Weetabix can create its own version of Chinese cereal, for breakfast or other ‘ready-to-eat’ occasions, it should be able to get good traction, given Bright’s distribution network, as well as rising consumer demand for healthy and convenient foods.”

He cites PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats as having adapted successfully, by offering “sweet and savoury congee [China’s traditional rice-based breakfast cereal] containing ingredients said to be particularly healthy and nourishing such as wolfberry, white fungus or red dates”.

Mr Turrell is considering green tea flavours, cranberries and sesame seeds to appeal to a savoury palate. Its Alpen muesli and cereal bars are selling well, says the company, partly because of China’s snacking culture.

“Alpen bars and porridge will be easier to adapt to the Chinese market,” says Mr Turrell. “Weetabix will take time.”


汤森路透(Thomson Reuters)的数据显示,食品饮料行业的海外兼并收购在中国今年到目前为止的并购总量中占到了17%,几乎追平占比20%的能源电力行业——通常来说能源电力行业是最主要的交易发起方。


在中国掀起这股海外收购热潮的一年前,美国猪肉制品生产商史密斯菲尔德食品(Smithfield Foods)被双汇国际(Shuanghui International)斥资70亿美元收购,两者整合之后形成了万洲国际(WH Group)。来自汤森路透的数据显示,这笔交易目前仍是中国企业有史以来规模最大的海外收购。

野村证券中国(Nomura China)董事长兼首席执行官杨志忠表示:“中国在消费品行业的海外投资活动呈上升趋势,并将以比其他领域投资快得多的速度增长——包括自然资源领域。”








很多中国收购方都是全国性的国有企业,例如粮食交易商中粮(Cofco),该公司近期斥资15亿美元收购了来宝集团(Noble Group)某子公司的股份,组建了一家经营食糖、大豆、小麦等农产品的合资企业。来宝集团是总部位于新加坡的大宗商品集团。

另一个买家群体隶属于中国地方政府。其中包括上海市政府所有的光明食品(Bright Food),该公司已经收购了英国早餐食品品牌维他麦(Weetabix),上月还斥资近10亿美元收购了Tnuva的控股权。


摩根大通(JPMorgan)欧洲、中东以及非洲地区的并购顾问主管卡米洛?葛雷柯(Camillo Greco)表示:“中国企业正在寻找最具战略意义的并购机会,在我们看来,他们收购企业为的是获取自身尚不具备的技术技能,或者是一个他们能在中国进一步发展壮大的品牌。”




汇丰(HSBC)并购业务的全球主管弗洛里安?福斯(Florian Fautz)表示:“他们还开始涉足仅能收购少数股权的交易。他们已经不再单纯寻求能收购100%股权的机会。”





这一展示——炫耀了这家英国早餐谷物生产商的英国皇家认证资质——传递出的信息非常简单:如果维他麦对英国女王(Queen of England)来说已经足够优质,中国消费者还需要什么更好的安全和质量保证呢?


光明食品还希望利用国内消费者对健康食品日益增长的需求,因为维他麦旗下还拥有Alpen瑞士风味干果早餐麦片和Ready Brek燕麦粥等产品。去年11月光明食品开始在上海地区的4000个销售点上架维他麦产品时表示:“中国消费者有机会享受到正宗、健康的英式谷物早餐。”

维他麦的首席执行官贾尔斯?特瑞尔(Giles Turrell)表示:“食品安全是一个重大问题,此外中国的中产阶级,特别是在像上海这样的城市,对西方品牌非常向往。”



来自欧睿国际(Euromonitor)的数据显示,瑞士的雀巢(Nestlé)和美国的通用磨坊(General Mills)在中国的即食早餐市场中占据了主导地位。

咨询公司科尔尼(AT Kearney)的合伙人唐仕德(Torsten Stocker)表示:“如果维他麦能够开发出中国特色的谷物食品,适合于早餐或者其他“立等可食”的场合,那么,考虑到光明食品的分销网络,以及中国消费者对健康方便食品的需求日益上升,该公司应该有能力形成很强的市场抓力。”

他举了百事可乐(PepsiCo)的桂格燕麦(Quaker Oats)为例,称其成功地适应了中国市场,靠的是提供“甜味和咸味的粥品(中国以大米为主要原料的传统谷物早餐),其中包含枸杞、银耳或红枣等据称格外健康有营养的配料”。




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