Antitrust watchdogs allow Ralcorp takeover

Federal competition regulators in Canada and the U.S. have signed off on ConAgra Foods’ proposed friendly takeover of Ralcorp, including the U.S. processor’s pancake and cracker plants in B.C. and Ontario.

Omaha-based agrifood giant ConAgra on Monday reported receiving a "no-action" letter from Canada’s Competition Bureau, confirming the bureau won’t challenge the proposed $6.8 billion takeover (all figures US$).

A waiting period under the U.S. Antitrust Improvements (Hart-Scott-Rodino) Act also expired Friday with no challenge to the bid, ConAgra noted.

The U.S. law requires parties to "large mergers and acquisitions" to file pre-merger notification with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice, which then analyze the proposed takeover or merger during the "waiting period."

Ralcorp, headquartered at St. Louis, is billed as the largest maker of private-label food in the U.S., with total annual sales of about $4.3 billion.

Its Canadian assets include waffle and pancake maker Sepp’s Gourmet Foods, with plants at Delta, B.C. and Brantford, Ont.

Ralcorp also owns specialty cracker maker North American Baking, formerly known as PL Foods, operating at Georgetown, Ont., and gourmet cracker maker J.T. Bakeries, operating at Kitchener, Ont. All three companies became Ralcorp subsidaries in 2010.

The proposed takeover, which still requires approval from Ralcorp shareholders, would create one of the biggest packaged food companies in North America, with sales of about $18 billion per year and with over 36,000 employees.

Related story:
Canadian pancake, cracker makers to go to ConAgra, Nov. 27, 2012