Aspen. Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Aspen. Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

Aspen Pharmacare is set to meet a self-imposed deadline to close the sale of its infant-formula business by the end of May after the deal was approved by a New Zealand regulator, a person with knowledge of the matter says.

The Overseas Investment Office agreed in principle to allow French dairy company Lactalis International to buy the unit from Aspen, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details are not yet public. The regulator has completed its checks on Lactalis, its directors and the transaction, and the last of the deal and legal documents are being signed, the person said.

The company, which is weighing the sale of some European units once the deal is completed, said in March that it expects to complete the sale by May 31.

The Overseas Investment Office does not yet have an update on the final decision, it said in an e-mailed response to questions. Spokespersons at Lactalis and Aspen declined to comment.

Aspen’s shares have slid 28% in 2019 following delays to the transaction that raised concerns that the drugmaker would struggle to reduce debt.

Lactalis, owned by the three billionaire Besnier brothers, agreed to pay €740m, or about 40 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation for the baby milk business.

Bloomberg