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Canadian bakery giant George Weston Ltd is exploring a potential deal to buy Aryzta

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Aryzta chairman Gary McGann

Aryzta chairman Gary McGann

Aryzta chairman Gary McGann

Canadian bakery giant George Weston Ltd is exploring a potential deal to buy Aryzta, the embattled Irish-Swiss bakery group.

Bloomberg reported that Toronto-based George Weston Ltd is working with an adviser as it pursues a deal for Aryzta, citing unnamed sources.

Aryzta has been heavily tipped as a takeover target amid a swirling row between its board and biggest shareholder.

George Weston Ltd is part of a sprawling empire of companies, including Penneys and Brown Thomas, owned or dominated by various descendants of the original empire builder George Weston himself, although the various companies are independent of each other.

Last week Aryzta said a number of third parties had made unsolicited takeover approaches for the company.

Aryzta hired Rothschild in April for a strategic review that effectively put the business on the market, and this month chairman Gary McGann said he’d stand down if a deal had not been lined up by an extraordinary general meeting in September.

The Swiss baking Aryzta is also attracting interest from potential private equity bidders including Apollo Global and Cerberus Capital Management, the people said.

Representatives for Apollo, Aryzta and Cerberus declined to comment and George Weston’s office in Toronto could not be reached for comment.

Aryzta, best known here for the Cuisine de France brand is a global supplier of of buns for burgers to McDonald’s and makes Otis Spunkmeyer cookies.

Aryzta’s badly beaten down shares value the company’s equity at around CEF560m, a dramatic collapse for what had been up to recent years a multi billion euro group.

As the share price collapsed disgruntled shareholders, led by Swiss activist investor Veraison Capital and Aryzta’s biggest investor Cobas Asset Management of Spain, launched a campaign to oust directors, including Gary McGann, that is set to culminate at the September EGM.

In the meantime Aryzta CEO Kevin Toland, a former Glanbia and Daa executive, had been trying to turn around the business.

The Veraison led shareholders say they want to keep Kevin Toland in his role. But in a sign of the rising tension between the shareholders and the board last week warned that they would take legal action if the EGM, originally planned for August, does not take place on September 16 as planned.

Online Editors