Acquisition may double Heinz debt
Billionaire Warren Buffett's love of ketchup and hash browns is transforming H.J. Heinz Co. into the most-leveraged food maker in America.
The acquisition of Heinz by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and 3G Capital Inc. for $28 billion including debt may double the company's debt to five times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, according to Fitch Ratings, the highest of any comparable food company.
Meanwhile, Heinz reported a third-quarter profit on Thursday of $269.5 million, or 83 cents a share. The Downtown-based food producer's latest earnings are down about 5 percent from the $284.7 million, or 88 cents, reported for the same quarter a year ago.
Heinz's sales grew 2 percent to $2.93 billion, however, with sales in what the company refers to as emerging markets growing by 17.6 percent led by Latin America, Indonesia and China.
Heinz shares closed at $72.19 Thursday, up 5 cents.
While Buffett has used takeovers to build Berkshire into a $249 billion company and burnish his reputation as the world's most successful investor, financing the deal with $14.1 billion in debt threatens to strip Heinz of the investment-grade rating that it's had for four decades.
The trading “underscores the hazards of high-grade bonds in an active M&A environment,” said Martin Fridson, chief executive officer of research firm FridsonVision LLC. Investors should be aware of the “inherent danger now that leveraged buyouts as well as strategic acquisitions are once again prominent in the financial landscape,” he said.
Michael Mullen, a spokesman for Pittsburgh-based Heinz, could not be reached for comment.
Instead of boosting its credit profile to match Omaha-based Berkshire's AA+ and Aa2 ratings, Heinz was cut to junk in two days in the eyes of credit investors, Moody's data show.
Heinz's leverage may increase to five times or more after the takeover is completed from 2.5 times on Oct. 28, according to a Feb. 15 Fitch report in which the rating firm cut Heinz's credit grade to BB+. That would make the ketchup-maker the most highly leveraged food manufacturer with a market value greater than $5 billion.
, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Heinz, which said in a Nov. 20 regulatory filing that it had about $5.04 billion of debt at the end of October, obtained $14.1 billion in financing from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. to support the deal, according to a Feb. 15 filing.
Berkshire and billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann's 3G will each pay about $4.1 billion for an equity stake. Berkshire is contributing $8 billion for preferred shares, for an annual dividend of 9 percent, Buffett's firm said in a filing.
The credit-default swap contracts tied to the company's debt fluctuated by more than 400 percent, in the two trading days after it was announced, CMA data show. Swaps are insurance to protect investors in Heinz's debt.
“It took the market time to digest just how leveraged, and how subordinated, senior unsecured bondholders will be as a result of approximately $10.5 billion of senior secured bank debt that will be layered ahead of bonds that don't benefit from a change of control,” said John Kneebone, a credit analyst at Paris-based BNP Paribas SA. “Many see the potential for leverage to go higher than anticipated levels” of about 6.1 times, he said.
Shares of the maker of condiments and Ore-Ida potato snacks, led by CEO Bill Johnson since 1998, had gained 17 percent in the past 12 months as it boosted sales in developing economies. The company traces its roots back to 1869, when Henry John Heinz and neighbor L. Clarence Noble began selling grated horseradish, according to Heinz's website. The company introduced its famous Tomato Ketchup in 1876.
“While details about the company's financing plans or additional debt needs have not been disclosed, we believe the transaction would weaken Heinz's credit protection measures well below current levels,” S&P analysts Bea Chiem and Jeffrey Burian wrote in a Feb. 14 note.
Bloomberg News and Trib Total Media staff writer Kim Leonard contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- World’s 1st carbon capture power plant switches on in Canada
- Highmark seeks double-digit increase for more benefits, heavy use
- Open enrollment puts varied impact of health care law back in focus
- EQT Corp. boosts profits despite lower gas prices
- FedEx investing another $1.2B in growth projects at FedEx Ground in Moon
- Amid struggles, top fiscal executive to leave EDMC
- SEC approves looser mortgage lending guidelines
- Air-bag deaths draw scrutiny of Congress as recalls widen
- Consumer, core prices inch up
- Natrona Bottling Co. keeps soda pop operation focused on craft, taste
- Allegheny Technologies reports $700,000 loss in 3Q