SunOpta to close acquisition despite financial woes

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sunopta, Organic food

SunOpta is set to complete its acquisition of Tradin Organic
Agriculture in the next few weeks having faced delays due
to the internal financial issues.

Canadian SunOpta announced plans to acquire the outstanding shares of Dutch organic food ingredients company last November, saying its aim was to extend its current organic programs while adding new sourcing projects worldwide. The acquisition was due to be completed in 60 days but because of financial troubles, which arose from over-valuation of berry supplies and led to lawsuits being filed against SunOpta in February, the company was forced to put the acquisition on hold. However, SunOpta seems back on track now and, having finalized its due diligence and related documents, it expects to close the acquisition on April 1. "The combination of SunOpta's global organic sourcing and processing operations with Tradin's extensive and complementary operations, positions SunOpta as a global leader in the provision of organic ingredients in the world, and is consistent with our strategy to become the leading global supplier of natural and organic food products,"​ said Steve Bromley, president and CEO of SunOpta. According to the Organic Trade Association's 2007 Manufacturer Survey, organic foods are one of the fastest growing segments in the industry, with sales in 2006 increasing 21 percent to reach $16.7bn. This latest news about SunOpta building on the growing organic market comes the same week it clinched a deal to begin construction of a new organic and natural oil refinery in Colorado in a joint venture with Colorado Mills. Tradin ​ According to the two companies, the acquisition will lead to further integrated sourcing and processing opportunities worldwide with the intention of positioning SunOpta as one of the dominant suppliers in the rapidly growing organic foods industry. Headquartered in Amsterdam, Tradin supplies a wide variety of organic products including frozen fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, coffee, cocoa, cereals, rice, soy, beans, pulses, seeds, nuts, oils, dairy products, seasonings and sweeteners. It operates wholly-owned and partially owned companies based in the Netherlands, China and Ethiopia and has annual revenues of approximately €85m ($120m). The existing management at the company will remain after the closing of the acquisition. Legal worries ​ SunOpta is entering into new business deals to achieve expansion, such as the Tradin acquisition and construction of the new oil refinery, despite having financial and legal concerns. It is currently facing class action lawsuits in New York over its alleged failure to correctly inform shareholders of accounting irregularities that, the claimants suggest, under-estimated the value of asset write-downs. According to one of the law firms involved in the action, the company "shocked investors" when it reported its anticipated financial results for 2007. It says this was the first time it had disclosed that it expected to incur material write-downs and provisions in the range of $12m to $14m. The firm said in January it expected sales for fiscal 2007 to be slightly over $800m, which is higher than its original estimations, but earnings would be no more than $0.12 to $0.14 per share as a result of the $12 to $14m pre-tax write-downs. SunOpta last week said that it was "aware of a number of class action claims filed against the company and certain of its officers and directors"​ and that it had "engaged outside legal counsel to vigorously defend itself against these claims".​ At the same time, it confirmed that its internal investigations had identified the cause of the over-valuation, and that it was satisfied that actions taken will result in improved processes and address the causes that led to the write-down.

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