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Saputo expands in U.S. with $1.45B deal

Tags: Saputo

Saputo Inc (SAP-T) will buy Dean Foods Co's (DF-N) Morningstar division for $1.45 billion US to widen its product range and increase its U.S. presence, the dairy products maker said on Monday.

The sale of Morningstar, which makes coffee creamers, Friendship cottage cheese and other dairy products, will be a big step in the breakup of Dean. The largest U.S. dairy company is spinning off another business into WhiteWave Foods Co.

After the sale of Morningstar and the separation of WhiteWave, which sells Silk soy milk and Horizon organic milk, Dallas-based Dean will sell mostly regular milk, which is a difficult business due to volatile commodity costs and slim margins.

Montreal-based Saputo, which has expanded its U.S. cheese business with several smaller acquisitions, is getting Morningstar at an attractive price, analysts said.

According to Canaccord Genuity analyst Derek Dley, the deal price is about eight times Morningstar's operating earnings, compared with Saputo's own trading multiple of 11.

Dley said more deals could be on the horizon. "I don't think this acquisition means they're going to stop growing in the U.S. by any means," he said.

Saputo and U.S.-based Michael Foods were the frontrunners in the auction of Morningstar, Reuters reported last week. Other bidders included Mexican dairy company Grupo Lala and private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC.

Saputo said it would finance the purchase through a newly committed bank loan. It expects the deal to close by the end of the year and boost its earnings immediately.

The combined business will have about 12,000 employees and 57 manufacturing plants in five countries.

Evercore Partners advised Dean Foods, while a source familiar with the matter said Rothschild had advised Saputo. CTV Two CTV News CTV News Channel BNN - Business News Network CP24