SWITZERLAND – Zurich- based European bakery company Aryzta has reached an agreement with Lion Capital and Invest Group Zouari (IGZ) to sell its remaining 4.64% stake in Picard for around €24 million (about US$29.4 million).

Picard Surgelés is a French food company specializing in the manufacture and retail distribution of frozen products.

The company which was founded in 1906 operates over 900 stores in France and produces about 700 different products, which are sold exclusively under the Picard brand.

Until 2019, Aryzta was a major shareholder in the business, controlling a 49% stake in the company which controls about 20% of the French frozen foods market.

In October 2019, Aryzta however opted to offload majority of its interest in the French frozen food producer to Tunisia-based IGZ.

IGZ acquired the 43% Picard stake for €156 million, leaving Aryzta with a less than 5% interest, which it said would be “monetised at a later stage”.

The new deal which comes at a time when Arytza is cash strapped is expected to close early in the first quarter of this year.

The troubled bakery group reported that its net debt stood at €1.01 billion on 1 August 2020, the end of its last financial year.

The sale also follows a recent announcement by the European bakery business of its intended sale of its businesses in North America and Latin America.

Food Business News had reported that for months, Aryzta has been a revolving door of activity, with numerous executives leaving, changes in key leadership, speculation swirling about a potential takeover.

Now, the company hopes to get back on firm footing with the election of a strong, unified new board that Aryzta said features “robust bakery, financial, governance, and turnaround expertise.”

Aryzta chairman Urs Jordi, who has also been serving as the company’s interim CEO since late last year, said: “The board and management of Aryzta is now fully focused on delivering its two-part plan to improve the business performance, reduce costs by 25% and significantly strengthen its balance sheet with the planned disposal of its Americas businesses.”

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