Turkish owner of Godiva and McVitie’s to sell assets

Yildiz plans to complete Godiva’s Japan unit sale this month as the group looks to divest all its non-core assets

The group acquired Godiva, United Biscuits Holdings and DeMet’s Candy over the past decade as part of an expansion drive that made it Turkey’s biggest international investor. Photo: AFP
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The Turkish owner of Godiva chocolates and McVitie’s biscuits has stepped off the acquisition trail.

After years of global expansion, Yildiz Holding is speeding up asset sales to focus on its core business and underpin Turkey’s largest loan restructuring deal, which it struck with lenders last year.

The Istanbul-based food producer plans to seek partners in units including Godiva’s business in Japan and some other Asian markets, while exiting non-core assets such as its mining and brick business. The company’s ultimate goal is to become a leading provider of snacks and chocolates in its chosen markets, according to Nurtac Ziyal Afridi, chief global strategy and M&A officer.

The group acquired Godiva, United Biscuits Holdings and DeMet’s Candy over the past decade as part of an expansion drive that made it Turkey’s biggest international investor. The hundreds of loans that Yildiz took out to support this growth were restructured last year, in a $6.5 billion (Dh23.87) agreement with more than a dozen lenders that required it to sell assets to produce cash. The firm has already sold $1.5 billion worth of domestic holdings to international investors since 2015.

“We want to divest our assets that are outside our global focus of businesses,” said Ms Afridi. “Proceeds from the stake sale in the Asian assets will go to Yildiz Holding’s debt repayment and also help Godiva’s expansion in other markets.” Godiva has a target of growing its sales “five times in five years” from more than $1bn in 2018, she said.

Yildiz Holding hired Morgan Stanley last year to manage the stake sale in Godiva’s business in Japan. People with knowledge of the process have previously said it could fetch as much as $1.5bn. With the sale expected to complete at the end of the month, Mr Afridi said negotiations with the unidentified buyer will determine which additional countries will be added in the sale.

The group’s private equity unit, Franklin Resources-backed Gozde Girisim Sermayesi Yatirim Ortakligi, is also selling assets. It entered into an exclusivity agreement with Vienna-based RHI Magnesita to sell its mining and brick-making unit Kumas Manyezit Sanayi, the company said.

Biscuit maker Ulker Biskuvi Sanayi , the group’s main local business, rose as much as 2.6 per cent to 19.23 Turkish lira (Dh13.32) in Istanbul, the most in two weeks, while Gozde was unchanged.

“We will do two or three asset sales this year from the portfolio as we are getting advisory and valuation support from Franklin Templeton on Gozde’s assets,” Ms Afridi said. The US money manager holds a 5 per cent stake in Gozde, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The planned sales for this year also include Kumas, she said.

Gozde has already announced plans to sell Makina Takim Endustrisi, a machinery tools maker. It also holds assets such as razor-blade maker Azmusebat, packaging firm Polinas, a 23 per cent stake in discount grocery Sok Marketler and 11.5 per cent of shoe retailer Flo among others.

Plans for an initial public offering of Yildiz Holding’s London-based pladis foods were shelved but the company may have “partnerships and investment opportunities in pladis in the future,” Ms Afridi said. The unit, which had £3.5bn

(Dh16.58bn) of sales in 2017, has double-digit sales growth every year, she said.

Yildiz Holding aims to expand revenue “in double digits” after growth of 18 percent to 54 billion liras ($10.2 billion) last year, Ms Afridi said. “We are now in an era of organic growth and focusing on our core businesses.”