Godiva may hit auction block(2)

Campbell’s will explore strategic options for its Godiva Chocolatier business, as the company refocuses on its core products and expands its soups into Russia and China.

Campbell Soup Company has said that it will explore strategic alternatives for its Godiva Chocolatier business, including “possible divestiture”.

Godiva: Sweets may be for sale

Campbell bought into the luxury Belgium chocolate business in 1966, and soon after acquired the company outright. Company spokesman Anthony Sanzio told PrivateEquityOnline the brand has always been a strong performer, and has annual sales of around $500 million (€365 million).

But since Campbell’s chief executive, Douglas Conant, came on board in 2001, the company has focused more on “simple meals”, including its soups, baked snacks and vegetable drinks, Sanzio said. Godiva, he said, does not fit into that strategic focus, and with the current strong growth in the premium chocolate market, now is an advantageous time to explore alternatives for the brand.

In its effort to expand its core businesses, the company has recently begun to offer more health- and wellness-focused products, including low-sodium soups and antioxidant-fortified vegetable juice, although that new focus did not affect the company’s decision to reevaluate Godiva, Sanzio said. Campbell is also in the midst of an effort to bring its soup products successfully to market in Russia and China.

Though Sanzio declined to comment on Godiva’s prospects, Deutsche Bank Securities analyst Eric Katzman reportedly said in a note to investors today that Godiva would have to sell for no less than $1.6 billion to avoid hurting Campbell’s profits.

Campbell has hired Centerview Partners as a financial advisor for the process.

Many food and beverage brands have been hitting the auction block in recent months as corporations focus more on their core products. In March Cadbury Schweppes split its beverage and confectionery businesses into two separate units, reportedly piquing private equity firms’ interest in the soft drinks arm. Just days ago, Sun Capital bought rotisserie chicken maker Boston Market from McDonald’s for an undisclosed amount.