TheWall Street Journal reported thatPinnacle Foods Group LLC, Mountain Lakes, N.J., agreed to purchase the nation's largest frozen vegetable processor,Birds Eye Foods, Rochester, N.Y., for $1.3 billion. Officials said the all-cash deal is scheduled to close no later than the first quarter.
Owned by private-equity giant Blackstone Group, Pinnacle is one of the country's largest packaged-food companies with well-known consumer brands such as Duncan Hines baking mixes and Swanson frozen dinners. Its other frozen food brands include Aunt Jemima breakfast products, Mrs. Paul's and Van de Kamp's seafood, Lender's bagels and Celeste pizza.
"The transaction provides meaningful opportunities to create value and strengthens our financial position," said Pinnacle Chief Executive Bob Gamgort. He said the deal "creates a leader in both the frozen and shelf-stable business segments."
TheWall Street Journalnoted that Birds Eye is majority owned by the private-equity firm Vestar Capital Partners. It is also 40 percent owned by Pro-Fac, a 48-year-old New York agricultural cooperative. Birds Eye carries about $700 million in long-term debt.
Acquired by Vestar in 2002, Birds Eye is sold in most of the country's largest grocery stores, including Wal-Mart, Kroger and Safeway. Birds Eye, which has about 1,700 full-time employees, has a dominant niche in frozen foods with about 25 percent of the U.S. frozen-vegetable market, the paper said.