Nestle SA agreed to buy vitamin maker Bountiful Co. for $5.75 billion, becoming a world leader in the field of minerals and supplements as the pandemic boosts demand for pills for health-conscious consumers.
Nestle Health Science chief executive officer Greg Behar said the purchase — from private equity firms KKR & Co. and Carlyle — should double e-commerce revenue from supplements to about $1 billion this year.
CEO Mark Schneider dove into the field of vitamins and supplements in his first year as CEO in 2017 with the $2.3 billion acquisition of Atrium Innovations Inc. He has focused on developing larger brands in the competitive, fragmented segment, seeing a market in high-spending health-conscious consumers.
“The bolt-on acquisition fits well with Nestle’s strategy to further expand in the highly attractive and globally growing category of specialized nutrition,” wrote Patrik Schwendimann, an analyst at Zuercher Kantonalbank. He said the price, equal to 16.8 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, seems fair.
Schneider’s strategy has delivered, with Nestle recently reporting sales growth at double the pace analysts predicted. About 91% of people taking supplements have increased consumption during the pandemic to boost their immune system, Behar said. Nestle Health Science’s revenue rose almost 10% in the first quarter on an adjusted basis.
Nestle shares have gained more than 70% since Schneider became CEO, and the company is worth more than $300 billion. The stock was little changed in Zurich Friday morning.
The company plans to offer more services that recommend specific nutrients to individual consumers, similar to the business of Persona, a personalized vitamin company that it bought in late 2019.
Nestle said it expects the transaction to close in the second half and weigh on profitability this year due to one-time integration costs.
Duncan Fox, a Bloomberg Intelligence consumer-goods analyst, said, “Nestle’s $5.75 billion acquisition — at a price of 3.1x sales and 16.8x Ebitda — of brands including Natures Bounty and Solgar from The Bountiful Company fits its specialist nutrition and wellness focus and adds another lever to growth once integrated into the business. The deal increases Nestle’s net debt-to-Ebitda ratio to about 2x from 1.7x, so it won’t affect its ability to either acquire further assets, or buy back shares.”
KKR had been planning an initial public offering valuing Bountiful at more than $6 billion, Bloomberg News reported in January.
Schneider has made more than 50 deals since taking over at the helm of the Swiss firm, and has said Nestle plans more acquisitions in the coming years to balance out the numerous divestments made over the past years including U.S. bottled-water businesses.
Bountiful sells a wide range of vitamins that are available in retail chains such as Walmart, CVS and Rite Aid. The pandemic has boosted demand for products that are advertised as helping consumers’ health and immune systems.
Evercore, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan advised KKR. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP was its legal counsel.