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Pillsbury sells Van de Kamp for $140M; Thai concern buys Bumble Bee Seafoods.

Pillsbury Sells Van de Kamp for $140M; Thai Concern Buys Bumble Bee Seafoods

It didn't take long for British conglomerate Grand Metropolitan P.L.C. to take the Pillsbury Co. out of the fish business. Just a few months after putting its American acquisition's two national seafood packers on the auction block, they have been sold. New management wants the "Doughboy" to concentrate on core brands such as Green Giant vegetables, Totino's pizza and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.

Pillsbury's Van de Kamp frozen seafood division was sold to the Chicago-based Whitman Corporation for $140 million. Its Today's Catch label is ranked No. 3 in the United States behind Gorton's and Mrs. Paul's in the fish fillet and stick portion category with a 19% market share.

Its other fish concern, Bumble Bee Seafoods Inc., San Diego, Calif., was sold for $269 million in cash to Uni Group Inc., a newly formed U.S.-based affiliate of a major Thai seafood processor, Unicord Co., Ltd. The Bangkok-headquartered parent, which did $250 million in sales volume last year, sold 48% of its frozen and canned seafood products to the United States. Some 35% went to countries in Europe.

Bumble Bee is best known in North America for marketing canned whitemeat tuna, salmon and pet food. While all but 100 of its 2,800 workers are employed at a processing facility in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, the Uni Group purchase included a 122,000-square-foot plant in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

"No Thai company has ever acquired a United States company of this size," advised Lloyd Grief, a Los Angeles investment banker who represented Unicord in the transaction. "This will not be the last that you hear from Dumri Konuntakiet's company in terms of expansion in the U.S."

Grief credited Dumri for being the chief architect of the Southeast Asia nation's tuna canning industry, which exported almost 179 million pounds of product worth over $207 million to the U.S. alone last year. The investment banker elaborated: "He saw that Thailand's location between the primary tuna fishing grounds in the South Pacific and the South Indian oceans made his country well-suited for the development of this important and expanding business."

Bumble Bee has changed ownership three times since Grief's Sutro & Co. organization handled a management buyout of the firm from Castle & Cooke, Inc. in 1985. Pillsbury owned the concern for only about a year, having purchased it last August for $242 million. One analyst termed the price received by Grand Metropolitan from Uni Group as "pretty healthy."

Since buying Pillsbury last December for $5.7 billion, Grand Met has sold off some $1 billion of the acquisition's assets to reduce debt.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Words:445
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