Billion-dollar bidding war for NZ pet food maker Ziwi

Mount Maunganui-founded pet food maker Ziwi is said to be the subject of a bidding war amid the lockdown-fuelled pet boom.

The company, which has its corporate headquarters in Auckland and plants on the East Coast and in Christchurch, has attracted the attention of two Chinese funds – FountainVest Partners and Boyu – according to The Australian.

Each fund is said to be preparing a bid of more than $1 billion.

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  • Pet food company Ziwi cops $66k fine over odours from Mount Maunganui plant

Ziwi was founded in 2002 by Tauranga’s Peter Mitchell. Its upmarket, freeze-dried dog and cat food typically sells for more than $50 a kilo under its Ziwi Peak brand. Animates has a 4kg bag of Ziwi Peak Daily Dog Cuisine Chicken selling for $193.49.

Today, Miitchell holds a 6 per cent stake in the company. The largest shareholder is Ebos director Mark Stewart the son of Sir Robinson Stewart, the founder of Christchurch plastics manufacturer PDL who died in 2007. PDL had revenue of around $350m when it was sold to French giant Schneider in 2001.

The remaining shareholders are managing director Richard Lawrence, with a 9 per cent stake and Bay of Plenty-based director Nigel Woodd.

Sale rumours first emerged last October, when it was said Ziwi was on the block for around $400 million – at which point NZX-listed Ebos (which already owns the Black Hawk Masterpet pet food brands) plus the multinationals Nestle and Mars were said to be prospective trade buyers,along with Chinese dairy giant Yili Group, according to an AFR report.

On August 24 this year, the AFR reported that Ziwi shareholders had hired PwC to run an auction for the business, having “been swamped with early interest from private equity and trade types late last year.”

At that time, US private equity firm KKR was said to be the early favourite, with two other American PE firms, Pacific Equity Partners and The Carlyle Group also said to be in the running, along with Yili.

Ziiwi, which sells primarily across Australia and New Zealand, generates operating earnings of around $50m, set to increase to $70m in two years, according to The Australian.

Directors have been approached comment.

Last year, Ziwi was fined $66,000 over odours from its Mount Maunganui plant that were so putrid they left some of those affected feeling “physically ill”.

The company previously pleaded guilty to a representative charge under the Resource Management Act of discharging a contaminant from an industrial or trade premises into the air on five occasions in 2018.

Shortly before the ruling, Ziwi revealed plans to build a new state-of-the-art (and odour-free) plant in Napier, which it said would employ 125.

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