German Meatpacker Toennies May Be Sold in $4.7 Billion Deal

Toennies Holding ApS & Co. is attracting interest from Brazilian rival JBS SA and an Asian bidder in a sale that could value Germany’s largest slaughterhouse operator at as much as 4 billion euros ($4.7 billion), according to people familiar with matter.

The company’s family owners are holding initial talks with both parties and could decide on the next steps this summer, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. There’s no certainty considerations will lead to a transaction and the owners may still opt to keep the business, according to the people.

A representative for Toennies declined to comment, while a spokesperson for JBS couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

JBS is the world’s largest meat producer and has this year grown through acquisitions in the U.K. and Australia. The Brazilian firm has also expanded its plant-based food offerings with the purchase of Dutch firm Vivera.

The owners of Toennies began exploring a sale of the roughly 50-year old company earlier this year, less than 12 months after its was embroiled in a nationwide scandal due to a huge coronavirus outbreak at one of its packing plants. The company reached out to a narrow group of industry peers including JBS, Tyson Foods Inc., WH Group Ltd., the Chinese company that bought Smithfield Foods Inc. in 2013, as well as other Asian players, the people said.

Clemens Toennies, head of of the German group, is known as “the sausage king” and often described as a brash billionaire. He turned into a public villain when one of his meatpacking plants was ordered to shut after more than 1,500 workers tested positive for Covid-19.

The family’s fortunes are rooted in the industrialization of Germany’s meat production. Clemens Toennies, who owns about 45% of the company, and his nephew Robert, who holds 50%, could both likely sell their stakes in any deal, people familiar have said.

Toennies has about 16,500 employees and generated about 7.3 billion euros of revenue in 2019, according to its website. It runs slaughterhouses for pigs and cattle and also makes Boeklunder brand cocktail sausages, Koenecke bockwurst and Wikinger hot dogs.

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