Pace quickens for Chr Hansen sale

The sale of Chr Hansen's ingredients arm gains pace with reports
suggesting the unit could fetch nearly €1 billion ($1.31 billion),
writes Lindsey Partos.

Citing an un-attributable source, the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten​ said that following initial interest from about 20 to 25 investment funds and firms in the Danish firm's ingredients business, now there are about 7 to 8 bidders left in the running.

The Financial Times​ quotes the Danish paper as suggesting the unit is likely to end up in foreign hands after fellow ingredients and enzymes firms Danisco and Novozymes opt out of the purchase.

Number one cultures supplier Chr. Hansen came up for sale in November last year after its major stakeholder decided to pull away from the ingredients slice of the company to focus on the pharmaceutical unit.

The move evolved out of discussions over the past three years to separate the Danish group into two independent listed companies, an ingredient and an allergy vaccine company.

But the primary shareholder in Chr Hansen, the Lundbeck Foundation that has its roots in the pharmaceutical business, informed the group's board that it does not wish to be a long-term strategic shareholder in the ingredients company.

The ingredients operations of Chr. Hansen include cultures, enzymes, colours - where it is the number one natural colour supplier - flavours, seasonings and sweeteners. Industry players with the clout to acquire Chr Hansen may well meet with competition concerns. As such, observers could suspect the group will be broken up into units.

But the CEO of Chr Hansen, Erik Soerensen told at the time that this is definitely not the case: "The ingredients business will not be split up, it is all or nothing."

At €450 million last year the ingredients unit contributed the majority of revenue to the group, compared to the €141 million contribution from the pharmaceutical unit, ALK-Abello, that focuses on allergy treatment and asthma prevention products.

Industry reports rumour that DSM, the Dutch chemicals group, has entered the frame to bid for the ingredients unit. Irish food group Kerry, could be another strategic bidder.

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