How a lucky Filipino company acquired several foreign firms

A privately-held food company in the Philippines, which made fortunes out of the Lucky Me! brand, is gobbling up Australian and British companies in quick succession.

Monde Nissin Corp., owned by businesswoman Betty Ang who has Indonesian ties, started as a biscuit maker in 1980, producing Nissin Butter Coconut and Nissin Wafer cookies.

The company, led by Henry Soesanto as its chief executive, began diversifying a few years later, venturing into instant noodle production in 1989.

A young model shows Monde Nissin Corp.’s various products. (courtesy of the company’s website)

It launched the Lucky Me! instant noodle, in a period that triggered a shift of Filipino consumers diet from mostly rice to the flour-based noodles.  The brand became a top seller and dominated the instant noodle market within six years after launch, even penetrating other countries with a large presence of migrant Filipinos.

A Kantar Worldpanel’s 2014 Brand Footprint Report named Lucky Me! as the most chosen and most purchased brand in the country, reaching almost all Filipino households, with a 98-percent penetration.

With fresh fortune from noodles, Monde Nissin began acquiring rival biscuit companies.  In 2002, it acquired M.Y. San Corp., the maker of Sky Flakes, M.Y. San Graham Crackers, and Fita.

Its other top biscuit brands are Voice and Bingo.

More than a decade later, Monde Nissin would make bigger acquisitions in Australia.  In March 2015, the company’s newly formed unit Monde Nissin (Australia) Pty. Ltd. announced that it acquired Nudie, a manufacturer, marketer and distributor of pure premium juices in Australia.

In the same month, Monde Nissin (Australia) bought Black Swan, the leading brand of chilled dips in Australia. Black Swan is also a manufacturer of Greek yogurt.

In June, Monde Nissin (Australia) moved to acquire Menora Foods, one of Australia’s biggest  innovative food distributors.

Soesanto, the chief executive of Monde Nissin, says the acquisitions are a part of the company’s strategy to become a significant foods and beverage player in the Asia Pacific region. “We see Australia as a very important market that we should have a strong presence in and Menora Foods with its marketing and distribution capability provides us with a very good strategic fit in achieving our vision,” he said.

Its biggest acquisition came this month.  Monde Nissin said it agreed to purchase Quorn Foods of the United Kingdom from Exponent Private Equity and Intermediate Capital Group for 550 million pounds or around P38.8 billion. The purchase is expected to be completed by Oct. 30.

Monde Nissin has the financial backing of its founder Betty Ang, who is listed by Forbes Magazine as the 19th richest person in the Philippines with a net worth of $905 million.

Three of the largest Philippine banks also agreed to support Monde Nissin in the transaction, including BDO, Bank of the Philippine Islands and Metro Bank.  Monde Nissin was advised by Citigroup Global Markets and Courtyard Hill and legally represented by Linklaters.

Quorn is an international meat alternatives producer, with market leading position in 15 countries.  It has around 620 employees in three UK sites, in Germany, and in the United States.

Monde Nissin said Quorn’s acquisition was in line with its plan to build a global branded food business, diversifying into categories that focus on health and sustainability.

“Quorn is a great fit for this strategy and complements its recent acquisition of Black Swan and Nudie, the leading brand of chilled dips and chilled juices in Australia, respectively,” it said.

Keven Brennan, Quorn’s chief executive, supported the statement of Monde Nissin, saying: “We have an ambition to be the world leader in meat alternatives. Monde Nissin’s purchase represents a great step forward in this ambition. They share our belief in the potential of Quorn, and provide capability to expand the brand into Asia.”

“Monde Nissin has been investing in on-trend, better-for-you products internationally, in-line with our strategy to become a global, diversified food company. Quorn represents an important new leg in our offering. We are excited by the growth potential of the global meat alternatives market, which complements our strategy perfectly,” Soesanto said.

Chris Graham, partner at Exponent said that over the past five years, Quorn has helped reduce 60 billion calories out of diets, and has had a green-house gas benefit equal to 65,000 cars not being on the road.

“Under Monde Nissin’s ownership, I am confident it will go on to have a profound impact on both health and sustainability,” Graham said.

Monde Nissin expects sales to exceed $1 billion in 2015.




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