M&A wrap: Unilever, Carlyle, Graze, Hershey, Conagra, Post Capital

Unilever is buying healthy snacks company Nature Delivered Ltd., also known as Graze, from the Carlyle Group (Nasdaq: CG). Graze is one of the largest healthy snack brands in Europe. The company sells personalized boxes that come with items such as nuts and trail mix through subscription delivery, as well as in retailers. "Graze believes that learning from Unilever's sustainable living plan will become a key driver for the business," says Graze CEO Anthony Fletcher. "Graze has an incredibly exciting future ahead as part of Unilever and we look forward to working closely with the team to keep on inventing new healthy snacks, as well as continuing to work to understand the role technology can play in improving the food industry." “Accelerating our presence in healthy foods and out of home this is an excellent strategic fit for the Unilever food and refreshment business," adds Nitin Paranjpe, president of Unilever’s food and refreshment business. Food conglomerates are diversifying their product lines to appeal to consumers who are opting for healthier snacks. In 2018, the Hershey Co. (NYSE: HSY) bought Pirate Brands from B&G Foods Inc. (NYSE: BGS) for $420 million. In 2017, Conagra Brands Inc. (NYSE: CAG) bought Angie's Aritisan Treats, the owner Boomchicapop popcorn brand, and Kellogg Co. (NYSE: K) paid $600 million for nutrition bar maker RXBar. Harris Williams Graze.

Technology M&A is thriving, and private equity firms are hot on the trail of innovations that will drive sustainable value to customers and make companies more efficient, more effective and less expensive to run. Among the developments appealing to PE investors are: artificial intelligence, data management, data virtualization, digital marketing, healthcare IT, industrial automation, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine learning, payment processing and Software-as-a-Service. To gain more insights into what kinds of tech deals will dominate the field in 2019, Mergers & Acquisitions reached out to 10 private equity firms that are active investors in technology: Francisco Partners, Genstar, Great Hill, HGGC, Insight, LLR, Riverside, Silver Lake, TA and Vista.

Related: 10 private equity firms share strategies for tech M&A.

Call for nominations
Time is running out. Nominations are due Feb. 8 for Mergers & Acquisitions' 12thAnnual M&A Mid-Market Awards, which will honor leading dealmakers and deals that set the standard for transactions in the middle market in 2018. CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT NOMINATIONS.

Deal news
Hospitality technology providers Travel Tripper and Pegasus are merging. The deal is backed by Accel-KKR. The two companies offer website reservations and website design services to hotels. Cooley advised Travel Tripper and Goodwin Procter advised Accel-KKR.

JLL and Gordon Brothers formed a strategic alliance to increase their retail real estate and restructuring services. The alliance will help retailers with real estate, inventory, brand, and customer migration services.

Post Capital Partners has partnered with home care services industry veteran Mark Heaney to look for adult day care and home and community based services acquisitions.

AEA Investors-backed Entregado Group acquired PowerTown Line Construction, an outsourced services provider to the power and utilities industries. Carl Marks Securities advised PowerTown.

Platinum Equity has bought Pro-Mark, a provider of irrigation systems for the residential homes sector. Wilkie Farr & Gallagher advised Platinum. Bennett Tueller Johnson & Deere and Lincoln International advised Pro-Mark.

Z Capital Partners has purchased Techniks Tool Group, a provider of tool products for the industrials sector.

Spotify Technology SA (NYSE: SPOT) is buying podcast producers Gimlet Media Inc. and Anchor.

Cooke Inc. has purchased shrimp company Seajoy Seafood Corp. Tully & Holland advised the target.

Healthcare company Viome has acquired personalized nutrition testing company Habit from Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB).

People moves
David Berk was hired by Gryphon Investors-backed Milani Cosmetics as chief financial officer. He previously held positions at L’Oreal USA.

Mattias de Beau has joined Adams Street Partners as a partner, where he is responsible for investment opportunities, conducting due diligence, and managing private equity fund manager relationships throughout Europe. He was previously with StepStone Group.

Stacey Dion was promoted from managing director to global head of government affairs at the Carlyle Group (Nasdaq: CG). She is leading Carlyle’s global government relations and public policy functions, collaborating with Carlyle senior executives and investment professionals to shape Carlyle’s global legislative and regulatory activities.

Wade Miquelon was promoted from CFO to CEO at Leonard Green & Partners-backed Joann Stores, a fabric and craft retailer.

Igor Taber was hired by automated machine learning company DataRobot as senior vice president of corporate development, where he is overseeing the company's M&A strategy. Taber was most recently with venture capital group Intel Capital.

Featured content
Bank volume was steady, but deal values would've been the lowest in years if not for one big, and very intriguing, transaction. For more, see: Bank M&A: What January data hints about 2019.

Not only do carve-outs account for 10 percent of all M&A activity, the percentage of carve-outs conducted by buyout firms (as opposed to strategic buyers) is on the rise, and sharply at that. And that’s important, because, at the risk of overextending the curveball analogy, the carve-out is ‘filthy stuff.’ The inherent complexities of the deal can puzzle even serial acquirers. Write Accordion's Gary Appelbaum and Eric Salit in this guest article: Carve-out curveball: How to hit a home run.

Consumerization of healthcare, high-deductible health plans, and more self-payment by patients are contributing to the overall increased demand for PT services, write Battery Ventures general partner Chelsea Stoner in this guest article: Rising demand for physical therapy drives deals.

Mergers & Acquisitions has named 36 leaders the 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A, including Kainos Capital's Sarah Bradley, Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors' Nishita Cummings and Pelham S2K Managers' Venita Fields. All 36 are outstanding dealmakers both inside and outside of their firms. This year, we asked the featured dealmakers to tell their own stories through Q&As, including their advice for women.

Related: Meet the 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A.

Mergers & Acquisitions asked leading dealmakers about their outlook for the middle market in 2019. Watch the video conversations, shot at ACG Philadelphia's M&A East: It is a seller's market, and deal activity is expected to remain steady, says Ramsey Goodrich of Carter Morse & Goodrich: Outlook 2019: Great time to sell. Private equity firms and strategic buyers will use their excess cash and capital to look for deals, says Bharat Ramprasad of Stifel Nicolaus: Outlook 2019: Excess capital to fuel M&A. Rising interest rates and regulatory changes may increase volatility, cautions Mark Emrich of Murray Devine: Outlook 2019: Keep an eye on rising interest rates.

Family-owned businesses require a lot preparation to sell to PE firms, says Carls Marks Advisors' Warren Feder. Watch the video: How to prep a family biz for sale to private equity.

Events
ACG Atlanta is hosting Atlanta ACG Capital Connection at the Hotel at Avalon and Alpharetta Convention Center in Atlanta from Feb. 5-7. The allows dealmakers to network with PE firms, corporate development officers and mezzanine capital funds.

The SBIA and the AM&AA are hosting a Deal Summit at The Doral in Miami from Feb. 20-22. The event offers networking opportunities with senior-level M&A adviors and lower middle-market funds.

ACG New York hosts the 11th Annual Healthcare Conference at the Metropolitan Club in New York on Feb. 28. Dealmakers network with healthcare-focused private equity firms and other industry professionals.

ACG Minnesota and Corvus North are hosting AIM: A Women's Leadership Conference at the Minneapolis Hyatt on March 7. The conference is designed to support and encourage female leaders to grow and achieve success throughout their career journeys.

ACG New York is hosting women of leadership golf event and reception on March 21 at Konnect Golf in New York. Female dealmakers from PE firms, investment banks and lenders will be able to network and discuss middle-market trends.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.