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Hostess to Draw Slate of Potential Buyers to its Table

Kellogg, General Mills, ConAgra, Kraft and Flowers Foods are among the likely strategic buyers that may express interest in the Twinkie maker's recipes

Since Hostess Brands Inc. was unable to resolve issues with its striking bakers’ union, the Twinkies and Wonder Bread maker will seek a liquidation process on Monday, Nov. 26, leaving dealmakers wondering which companies are likely to show interest in acquiring the many assets that are up for grabs.

So far, private equity firm Sun Capital Partners Inc. has expressed interest in bankrupt Hostess. Marc Leder, the firm’s co-CEO, has said that Sun Cap would have fostered a better working relationship with the Irving, Texas-based debtor’s union, BCTGM (Bakery Confectionery Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers).

Others point out that if a private equity firm were to pick up one of Hostess’ brands, it would have to already have experience operating companies in the baked or dairy goods industry. For example, Oaktree Capital, which took over Spanish doughnut maker Panrico as part of a restructuring deal in 2011 from previous owner Apax Partners, may be a likely acquirer.

Several strategic buyers are also expected to place bids on Hostess, including Flowers Foods Inc. The company behind the Tastykake snack brand announced on Nov. 19 that it renegotiated lending terms as means of accessing additional cash—a move that reportedly puts it in the running for one of Hostess’ assets.

Since a slew of Hostess snack recipes are expected be included in the liquidation process as a separate sell from, say, baking facilities, that may entice other major food companies enough to approach the negotiation table, including Kellogg Co. (NYSE: K), General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS), ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE: CAG) and Kraft Foods Group Inc. (Nasdaq: KRFT).

Grupo Bimbo SAB de CV (BMV: BIMBO), which already owns the Thomas' and Entenmann's brands, was also reported to be a likely acquirer, but the company has since stated that it has no intention of participating in the Hostess sale for the time being. Mexico City-based Bimbo expanded its operations significantly in 2010 when it purchased the North American bakery unit of Sarah Lee Corp. for $959 million.

Even though a slate of companies are circling Hostess, there are several challenges dogging the company. In addition to the company's shuttering 36 plants, many wonder how Hostess will fair in a market that increasingly stresses healthy eating and natural foods. (For Mergers & Acquisitions' coverage on the trend, see “3Qs With...Brette Simon, partner at Bryan Cave LLP” and “Grocers Grow.”)

Other Hostess brands include Ding Dongs, Dolly Madison, Drake’s, Home Price, Merita and Nature’s Pride. For more coverage on the company, which filed bankruptcy in January, see "Bankrupt Hostess Puts Off Liquidation Sale in Favor of Mediation Talks."

 

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