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Philippine Gokongwei Group Exits Australia, New Zealand Snack Foods Business

Universal Robina Corp. (URC)—controlled by billionaire Lance Gokongwei and his family—agreed to sell its remaining 60% stake in Unisnack ANZ to its joint venture partner Intersnack Group, exiting the Australian and New Zealand snack food business to focus on Southeast Asia.

Intersnack will increase its stake in Unisnack ANZ to 100% upon completion of the transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals in Australia and New Zealand. Financial details weren’t disclosed.

URC, one of the largest food manufacturers in the Philippines known for its homegrown Jack ‘n Jill snacks, first ventured into New Zealand with the acquisition of Griffin’s Foods—known for its Huntley & Palmers brand— for NZ$700 million in 2014 and then three years later, it bought Snack Brands Australia—known for its Kettle and Cheezels brands—for A$600 million.

“We are pleased to be handing full stewardship of these strong businesses to our partner Intersnack, while we continue to focus on other growth segments and geographies across developing markets,” URC president and CEO Irwin Lee said Friday in a statement to the Philippine bourse.

URC sold an initial 40% stake in its Australia and New Zealand businesses to Intersnack in 2019 when the partners established their snack foods joint venture Unisnack ANZ, which generated sales of A$580 million in 2020.

Philippine-based URC has a strong presence across Southeast Asia, generating sales of 133 billion pesos ($2.7 billion) in 2020, with more than 14,000 employees across the region. The company was founded by the late billionaire John Gokongwei in 1954 as a corn starch factory.

After Gokongwei passed away in 2019, his six children—Lance, Robina, Lisa, Faith, Hope and Marcia—inherited his fortune. The siblings had a combined net worth of $4.1 billion, placing them at No. 4 on the list of Philippines’ 50 Richest when it was last published in September 2020. Their fortune is derived largely from stakes held in JG Summit, which has interests in airlines, telecom, banking, food, power and property.

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