Thai Union Frozen Products plc is singing "Yum, Yum, Bumble Bee tuna" after agreeing to buy the San Diego company behind the famous ads from Lion Capital LLC for $1.51 billion. The deal, announced Friday, Dec. 19, will add the American canned fish brand to a bulging pantry that includes Chicken of the Sea, King Oscar and John West.
The Bangkok-based buyer, already the world's largest processor of canned tuna products, said the post-synergies purchase price amounts to 8.6 times estimated 2014 Ebitda for Bumble Bee Seafoods LLC.
Friday's deal comes about four years after consumer-focused Lion Capital picked up Bumble Bee from New York-based Centre Partners Management LLC in a $980 million leveraged buyout worth about 7.5 times Bumble Bee's Ebitda at the time.
It also comes 17 years after Thai Union first splashed into the U.S. market with the 1997 purchase of 50% of San Diego-based Tri-Union Seafoods LLC, which does business as Chicken of the Sea International. For Thai Union, Bumble Bee will be its largest acquisition since it was founded more than 37 years ago, bolstering its position in the world's second-largest seafood market.
"We are a strategic investor with a long-term view of the market," said Chicken of the Sea CEO Shue Wing Chan. "We believe that, together, we will be able to reinvigorate the canned seafood category in North America."
Lion Capital partner Lyndon Lea added that Thai Union "is uniquely qualified to build even greater growth and prosperity of [the] Bumble Bee Seafoods business in the future."
The Bumble Bee brand goes back to 1899, when it was founded by a handful of fishermen. Bumble Bee Seafoods LLC was founded in 2003, and has been privately held since 2008 when Centre Partners acquired it through the $600 million purchase of Connors Bros. Income Fund.
Today, Bumble Bee Seafoods is North America's largest branded shelf-stable seafood company, with annual sales of about $1 billion and estimated 2014 Ebitda of $145 million.
Bumble Bee has more than 1,300 employees, and produces and sells canned, pouched and frozen seafood products across the United States and Canada. Besides its eponymous brand, its portfolio includes Brunswick, Sweet Sue, Snow's, Beach Clif, Wild Selections, Bumble Bee Superfresh, as well as Clover Leaf in Canada.
Thai Union and Bumble Bee said they expect to close the acquisition in the second half of 2015. UBS acted as M&A adviser to Thai Union, while Morgan Stanley and Rothschild advised Bumble Bee.