April 11, 2018 / 9:24 AM / 8 months ago

Chinese investor group buying control of Australia's Nature's Care

SYDNEY/BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese state-backed consortium is snapping up a majority stake in Australian vitamin company Nature’s Care, valuing the firm at around A$800 million ($619.92 million), the latest in a string of deals led by China for global nutrition assets.

The consortium includes investment group China Jianyin Investment Ltd (JIC), one of its subsidiaries and private equity fund Tamar Alliance, according to Nature’s Care and the buyers who issued a joint statement on Wednesday. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

A source with direct knowledge of the deal, however, said the acquisition values the Sydney-based vitamin firm at about A$800 million.

Nature’s Care is Australia’s third largest vitamin company and also manufactures supplements and skin care products. Its founders and current owners, the Sydney-based Wu family, will retain the remaining minority stake in the 28-year-old company, two further sources told Reuters.

All three sources declined to be identified because the details of the deal were private.

Nature’s Care did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment about the deal value and could not be reached by phone.

Chinese investors have been hunting for deals in health foods, vitamins and supplements overseas to meet growing demand from China’s burgeoning middle class who are becoming increasingly health and fitness conscious.

Australian firms in the sector including Swisse Wellness and Vitaco Holdings have lured Chinese buyers in recent years, while Chinese drugmaker Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Holding Co (600664.SS) said it would buy a 40 percent stake in U.S. nutritional supplements maker GNC in February.

“There is a lot of room for growth in China,” said Ben Cavender, Shanghai-based principal at China Market Research Group, who added that Australian firms especially had built up good cachet and brand awareness in China.

The buying consortium added in their statement that there was “explosive growth” in Chinese demand for “high quality nutrition supplements from overseas countries like Australia”, helped in part by a flourishing cross-border online market.

The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close in the second half of 2018, the statement said. UBS advised Nature’s Care, while Deutsche Bank advised the buying consortium, the statement said.

The Australian Financial Review reported the deal earlier on Wednesday.

JIC is one of China’s largest state-owned funds. Its portfolio of investments included medical care, artificial intelligence chips and book stores. Tamar Alliance is owned by Citic Pacific Ltd and Dah Chong Hong Holdings (1828.HK).

Reporting by Paulina Duran, Pei Li and Kane Wu; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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