Post Holdings of US close to buying British cereal maker Weetabix for around $1.76 bn

US cereal company Post Holdings is close to finalising a deal to buy British cereal company Weetabix Ltd from Bright Food Group Co for around $1.76 billion, Reuters yesterday reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Reuters had reported in January that Post Holdings was among four bidders, including UK's Associated British Foods, Cereal Partners Worldwide and Italian pasta maker Barilla, vying for Weetabix.

State-backed Bright Food Group, China's second-largest food company, had acquired 60 per cent of Weetabix in 2012 from majority owner private equity firm Lion Capital in a deal that valued the Northamptonshire-based company at £1.2 billion ($1.94 billion), including debt.

Lion Capital later sold the remaining 40 per cent stake to Baring Private Equity Asia.

Bright Food had hired Goldman Sachs to conduct an auction for the 84-year-old brand, which has recently been struggling as consumers change their breakfast habits.

Weetabix can trace its history back to 1932. It had been family-owned until its takeover by Texan private equity firm, Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst in 2004 for £642 million.

It is Britain's second-biggest maker of breakfast cereals and cereal bars after Kellogg and has a presence across 80 countries, employs around 2,000 people and generates annual sales of £346 million.

Founded by C W Post in 1895, St. Louis, Missouri-based Post Holdings is a consumer packaged foods holding company operating in the centre-of-the-store, active nutrition and private-label food categories.

Post's centre-of-the-store portfolio includes Honey Bunches of Oats, Pebbles, Great Grains, Post Shredded Wheat, Post Raisin Bran, Grape-Nuts and Honeycomb.

Post also offers premium natural and organic cereal, granola and snacks through the Attune, Uncle Sam, Erewhon, Golden Temple, Peace Cereal, Sweet Home Farm and Willamette Valley Granola Company brands.

In its largest ever acquisition, Post acquired egg and dairy producer and distributor Michael Foods Inc in 2014 from GS Capital Partners, an affiliate of Goldman Sachs, for $2.45 billion.