Bunge deal to buffer Walter Rau from costs

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

German margarine and dressings manufacturer Walter Rau
Lebensmittelwerke has been acquired by agri-giant Bunge Europe in a
deal that will help it meet raw material price challenges and
expand into new markets.

Bunge, which has its headquarters in the US, has activities in the edible oils industry - as well as fertilisers, grains and milling. In addition, it also manufactures bottled oils, mayonnaise and margarines for consumers. The acquisition, for an undisclosed amount, came into effect as of January 1 but was only announced this month. The German company said the acquisition will allow it to be integrated into the complete value-generating chain 'from field to product'. However a spokesperson for the company told FoodNavigator.com that it will not just source its oil raw materials from Bunge, but from other sources as well. "In times of dramatically increasing prices for raw materials… [and] against the backdrop of continuously rising investments in new product development and innovations, the merger prepares Rau for future challenges,"​ it said. Walter Rau, which generated turnover of nearly €130m in 2007, has started eyeing European opportunities outside its native Germany - although details of target markets were not available. In 2006 it acquired a new facility on the Lower Rhine region of Germany, so as to extend beyond its traditional offering of margarine and into condiments, dressings, and low-fat butter. For Bunge Europe's part, CEO Jean-Louis Gourbin said the acquisition will strengthen the food products business in the continent. "Walter Rau Lebensmittelwerke has been a leader in product innovation for many years now and we intend to leverage this expertise within our global food portfolio and our integrated business model,"​ he said. Overall the Bunge group reported net income of US$44.8bn for the year ended December 31 2007 - up 71 per cent on 2006. However in edible oils, operating profit dropped 117 per cent to $58m for the year, despite sales volumes rising 16 per cent and sales reaching $5.6bn, a 48 increase on the prior year. In the fourth quarter Bunge's results were affected by $29m impairment and restructuring charges, said to relate mainly to the closure of edible oil facilities in Eastern Europe, plus impairments to goodwill and other intangible assets in India. On the other hand, it has been making investment moves in both Asia and Europe. "Improved margins were offset by higher operating expenses, which included investments to grow the business in Asia and Europe,"​ it said in its report, released two weeks ago. The report did not specifically mention the Walter Rau acquisition, but it did note several other big moves in 2007. These included the expansion of Bunge's oilseed processing footprint and launch of a regional consumer packaged oil brand in China.

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