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Italy’s Newlat Food has agreed to buy Princes for £700m to add the British company’s tinned fish and Napolina sauces to its range and create the food sector’s first Milan-based “unicorn”, or billion-dollar start-up.

Newlat’s shares were up 7.4% at 10.22am GMT (12.22pm).

Newlat said it would pay £650m in cash, plus £50m from the sale of shares in parent Newlat Group, to Princes’ current owner, Mitsubishi Corporation.

Mitsubishi will become the second-largest shareholder in the enlarged company, which will be rebranded New Princes, with 21.2% of economic rights and 15.1% of voting rights.

Newlat Group will own about 44% of the new company, which will have expected consolidated turnover of about €3bn and consolidated equity of more than €700m, Newlat said.

“Newlat Food will become the largest food company listed on the Milan Stock Exchange, reinforcing its role as a key international player,” chair Angelo Mastrolia said in a statement.

Newlat Food makes pasta, milk and dairy, instant noodles and bakery products.

Princes sells tinned fruit and fish under its own name, and has other brands including Flora sunflower oil and the Napolina range of Italian-style tomato sauces and cooking ingredients.

It traces its roots back to 1880 when it was founded as a fish importer in Liverpool, northwest England. It has been owned by Mitsubishi since 1989.

In February, Newlat said it had halted talks to buy Princes after Mitsubishi rejected a proposal, but added it remained open to a deal. Sky News reported in December that British buyout firm Epiris and Newlat were competing for the deal.

Newlat added it would receive a €200m loan from Newlat Group and a €300m loan from a pool of international banks to finance the purchase.

UniCredit and BNL BNP Paribas acted as global co-ordinators and bookrunners for the loan. The two banks and Equita also acted as financial advisers for the Princes deal, which Newlat expects to complete by end-July.

New Princes will aim for a net debt to core profit (ebitda) ratio of one by end-2026, and an average annual free cash flow of more than €100m between 2024 and 2028, Newlat said, adding the group would present its 2030 combined business plan on June 4.

Reuters

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