Lane offloads Healtheries and Hansells

By Owen Hembry, Stephen Ward

Gary Lane has sold food company Hansells and health products maker Healtheries in two multimillion-dollar deals announced yesterday.

The price Old Fashioned Foods, which makes the well-known Aunt Betty's range, paid for Hansells was not disclosed, nor was the price due to be paid by Australian-based private equity firm Next Capital for Healtheries. But the value of the two combined Lane businesses has previously been estimated as much as $200 million.

Lane's wealth was estimated at $225 million in last year's National Business Review Rich List.

When the Healtheries and Hansells deals are completed he will be largely cashed up - apart from property investments such as a share in Wairakei golf course and homes in the upmarket Auckland suburb of Herne Bay, which he purchased from the Sultan of Brunei last year.

Old Fashioned Foods said the purchase of Hansells would boost its revenue to about $100 million for the year ending March 31. Chief executive Ross Mackenzie said the business would benefit from Old Fashioned Foods' experience in dealing with supermarkets, in particular the private label market in Great Britain.

There was room for increased product development at Hansells, and revitalising mature products was one of the strengths of Old Fashioned Foods' management, he said.

Hugh Cotterill, associate director of investment bank Cameron Partners, who advised Old Fashioned Foods, said the products were similar.

"I think Hansells have got a very good New Zealand sales team ... so Old Fashioned Foods will be able to leverage off that.

"I think conversely Ross [Mackenzie] and Old Fashioned Foods have got very good distribution into both Australia and the UK."

The deal - expected to be funded partly through debt and equity from existing shareholders - is subject to certain conditions but is expected to be completed by December 1.

The Healtheries deal is due to be finalised by the end of the month.

Next Capital said last night there were many opportunities in the rapidly developing health and well-being market in Australasia.

ADDING TO THE MIX

HANSELLS

* Headquarters in Auckland.

* Employs 230 staff with annual sales of $55 million.

* Brands including Vitafresh, Quench, Thriftee, King Traditional Soup, Yog-it, Sugromax, Hansells, King, Baker Halls Original, Jungle Juice.

OLD FASHIONED FOODS

* Based in Auckland.

* Employs 90 people.

* Makes 30 million Aunt Betty's puddings a year.

* Company started by Fred Willetts making puddings based on his sister's recipes.

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