BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

Foreign Investment

Refresco Buys Cott Beverages

Cott Corp. has announced it will sell its traditional beverage manufacturing business, Cott Beverages, to Netherlands-based Refresco for $1.25 billion.
P-J photo by Greg Fox

Cott Corp. has announced it will sell its traditional beverage manufacturing business, Cott Beverages, to Netherlands-based Refresco for $1.25 billion. P-J photo by Greg Fox

DUNKIRK — Cott Corp. has announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its traditional beverage manufacturing business — Cott Beverages — to Netherlands-based Refresco for $1.25 billion.

The transaction includes Cott’s North America, U.K. and Mexico businesses — including the facilities in Dunkirk. It excludes the RCI International division and its associated concentrate facility, as well as the Aimia Foods division.

“What I can tell you is Refresco, from the Netherlands, it’s their entry into the U.S. and North America,” said Kevin Sanvidge, Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency administrative director and chief executive officer. “They currently make juices and soft drinks. Their products are not in the U.S., so it was a good fit for them to acquire Cott. This is a good thing for the Dunkirk plant as Refresco has a very strong balance sheet and they’re investing in North America with the intentions to grow the business in North America. This is positive news for the employees at the Dunkirk plant.”

The sale results in the creation of the world’s largest independent bottler, with leadership positions across Europe and North America.

For more than 60 years, Cott Beverages has been a leading manufacturer of a diverse mix of beverages for the retail trade and branded manufacturers and is one of the world’s largest producers of beverages on behalf of retailers, brand owners and distributors, according to a news release. It produces multiple types of beverages in a variety of packaging formats and sizes, including carbonated soft drinks, 100 percent shelf-stable juice and juice-based products, energy drinks, clear, still and sparkling flavored waters, sports drinks, new-age beverages, ready-to-drink teas, freezables and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages.

“After a thorough strategic review in 2013, we developed an accelerated diversification and acquisition strategy in order to transform our company and create a business weighted toward better-for-you products in categories with topline growth, a more diverse channel and customer base, higher margins and strong free cash flow generation. This transaction is very much in line with this strategy, and enables our traditional business to become an integral part of a larger global beverage manufacturing company that pursues the same high customer service and quality standards Cott has been known for throughout its history,” said Jerry Fowden, Cott’s chief executive officer.

Cott Beverages generates approximately $1.7 billion in revenues annually. Subsequent to the closing of the transaction, Cott Beverages’ leadership team will report to the executive board of Refresco.

“We are excited to welcome Cott Beverages to the Refresco family. We have been focused on growing our platform in both North America and Europe and this transaction is a significant enhancement to our buy-and-build strategy, which will provide Refresco with enlarged scale, synergies and savings alongside Refresco’s manufacturing footprint, geographic diversity, product range and customer service,” noted Hans Roelofs, Refresco’s chief executive officer. “We will now have a well-balanced portfolio with exposure to all categories for retailers in North America and Europe in addition to a scale contract manufacturing footprint throughout these geographies from which to continue to grow both organically and by pursuing our buy-and-build strategy.”

Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas welcomed the new company to the city.

“Our development department is going to reach out to connect with them to see what we can do to help,” he said.

STRATEGIC RATIONALE

“The sale of Cott’s traditional business substantially accelerates our ability to deleverage the business and positions us well to grow our water, coffee, tea and filtration businesses, both organically and through value accretive tuck-in acquisitions, while also giving us the optionality to expand our platforms through larger-scale acquisitions if and when the right value-enhancing opportunities present themselves,” Fowden stated.

The transaction is expected to:

¯Improve top-line growth and stability;

¯ Enhance overall gross profit and EBITDA margins;

¯ Significantly reduce net leverage;

¯ Reduce customer concentration;

¯ Reduce commodity exposure; and

¯ Shift Cott’s core focus to the growing categories of water, coffee, tea and filtration.

The transaction is expected to reduce Cott’s leverage to below 3.5 times net debt to 2017 pro forma adjusted EBITDA (excluding Cott Beverages) after sale proceeds are used for the redemption of the remaining $250 million of the 10 percent DS senior secured notes, $525 million of the 5.375 percent notes, and paying off the asset-based lending facility.

As a result of the redemption of the 5.375 percent notes, Cott expects to commence asset sale proceed offers on or about the closing date of the transaction pursuant to the indentures governing its then-remaining unsecured notes, pursuant to which Cott will offer to repurchase such notes at 100 percent of the principal amount thereof.

The acquisition, which is expected to close in the second half of 2017, is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approval, Refresco shareholder approval and working capital adjustments.

Barclays acted as financial advisor to Cott while Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP acted as legal advisor. In addition, Cott turned to CMS for advice on Dutch law matters relating to the transaction.

In 2010, Cott acquired privately held Cliffstar Corp., the leading private-label manufacturer of shelf-stable juices. Cliffstar began over 100 years ago, when Meyer Star settled in the Dunkirk-Fredonia area.

The Post-Journal Reporter Jimmy McCarthy and OBSERVER City Editor Nicole Gugino contributed to this article.

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