(Courtesy of Symrise)
Four months after hiring advisers to start shopping French food ingredients maker Diana Group, private equity firm Ardian has found a potential buyer in German flavors and fragrances giant Symrise, which has agreed to pay $1.8 billion for the company.
Diana, based in the ancient city of Vannes in northwest France, specializes in flavors and food additives. Symrise—which raised $1.9 billion in a 2006 initial public offering that was the biggest IPO in Germany that year—believes the acquisition will boost its ability to compete with rivals like Firmenich, Givaudan and International Flavors & Fragrances.
A cross-border transactional team from Clifford Chance led by M&A partners Christof-Ulrich Goldschmidt, in Frankfurt, and Catherine Astor-Veyres, in Paris, is advising Holzmindzen, Germany–based Symrise on the transaction. The other lawyers from the Magic Circle firm working on the matter include antitrust partner Marc Besen, banking and finance partner Bettina Steinhauer, M&A partner Thomas Stohlmeier, tax partner Eric Davoudet, M&A counsel Christian Vogel and Mattias von Buttlar and associates Walter Organ, Michael Samol and Dimitri Slobodenjuk, according to German legal publication Juve.
The company’s U.S. general counsel, Jens Obermueller, is a onetime Clifford Chance associate whose former firm successfully represented Symrise earlier this year in litigation before a Munich regional court. Markus Sattler is Symrise’s group general counsel, and Thomas Rabe—a lawyer formerly with Brussels-based boutique Forrester Norall & Sutton, which was absorbed by White & Case in 1997—serves as chairman of Symrise’s supervisory board.
Ardian, which was spun off late last year by Paris-based insurance giant AXA’s private equity arm, has turned to Weil, Gotshal & Manges for outside counsel on the Diana sale. A press release by Symrise states that the deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year.
Weil corporate partner David Aknin, who joined the firm a decade ago in a high-profile lateral move from Linklaters, is leading the Paris-based team from the firm advising Ardian. The other Weil lawyers working on the matter include corporate partner Alexandre Duguay and associate Guillaume Bonnard. (Duguay was promoted to partner in January 2012.)
Aknin and Weil took the lead earlier this year for French construction and concessions giant Vinci in talks between Ardian and Credit Agricole over the sale of a majority stake in a parking lots unit.
Michael Ferragamo, a New York lawyer now based in London, serves as Ardian’s chief compliance and operating officer. Latham & Watkins, Paul Hastings and several French firms have also handled legal work for Ardian since its split from AXA last year.
Reuters reports that Japan’s Ajinomoto and private equity firms CVC Capital Partners, Eurazeo and Pamplona also made offers for Diana. German legal giant Hengeler Mueller is advising JPMorgan Chase in its capacity as Ardian’s financial adviser on the sale of the company to Symrise, according to Juve.