Private-equity firm takes half-share of Costa

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 25th July 2011

The owners of Australian fresh produce firm Costa Group have sold a 50% stake in the business to private-equity firm Paine & Partners.

The deal, struck for an undisclosed sum, will give family-owned Costa the investment to “pursue long-term strategic growth”, chairman Frank Costa said.

“The Costa Group board and family believe this arrangement with Paine & Partners offers both financial resources and the opportunity for management and employees to pursue long term strategic growth,” Mr Costa, who will stay on as chairman, said.

Costa, which traces its history back to 1888, claims to be the “leading vertically-integrated grower and marketer of fresh producer in Australia”. Its annual revenues are over A$600m (US$650.7m).

Harry Debney, Costa’s chief executive, will remain in the role and said the company would look to invest in farming, varietal research, distribution and technology.

In 2003, Paine & Partners acquired a majority stake in vegetable and fruit seeds maker Seminis. The private-equity firm sold the business to Monsanto in 2005 but said it increased Seminis’s EBITDA under its ownership.

“Paine & Partners has long had an interest in the fresh produce industry, having historically invested in Seminis, the world’s largest fruit and vegetable seed company,” Kevin Schwartz, a founding partner at the private-equity firm, said.

“Our investment in the Costa Group will strengthen the company’s balance sheet and provide significant access to additional capital to facilitate a number of potential growth opportunities.”

The transaction is expected to close later this year.

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