The world's leading manufacturer of cocoa and chocolate products, Barry Callebaut of Zurich, has made a major acquisition in Germany.
The company announced on Friday it had bought the German chocolate firm Stollwerck from Imhoff Industrie Holding for SFr256 million ($156.7 million).
A statement said the combination of the two companies would enable Barry Callebaut to achieve a leading position in the total European cocoa and chocolate, whilst gaining a stronger position in the German consumer chocolate market.
Germany is the largest European market and the second-largest market worldwide for coca and chocolate products.
The acquisition will create a group with combined sales in 2001 of SFr3.3 billion, the statement said.
The cash and equity deal involves Barry Callebaut taking on Stollwerck debt and will result in a one-off restructuring cost of about SFr80 million. This would be followed by cost synergies of about Sfr32 a year, which would be fully realised by the end of the fiscal year 2004/2005.
The deal is part of Barry Callebaut strategy to move out of the sale of semi-finished products such as cocoa butter and powder and into businesses with higher profit margins.
Company chairman and CEO Andreas Schmid said the acquisition presented an "exciting challenge".
"Barry Callebaut is now in an even better position to actively participate in the global consolidation process now underway in the chocolate industry and to offer our customers the full range of products, from the cocoa bean to the finished chocolate product," he said.
Some four per cent of the equity stock of Stollwerk, based in Cologne, is privately held. Barry Callebaut said it planned to buy out the remaining shareholders after approval by the German regulatory authorities.
swissinfo with agencies