Kerry Group spent €17.6m on its failed, secretive, bid for the nutritional arm of US rival DuPont, the Irish Independent understands.
Kerry has never confirmed making a bid for its $24bn rival. However, annual results published yesterday include a note of €17.6m spent by Kerry in relation to "a material transaction process that the group participated in". That bill included "deal preparation, integration planning and due diligence". Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs advised Kerry on the DuPont bid.
The deal would have transformed the Irish company but Kerry ultimately lost out in December to US rival International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF).
Yesterday, Kerry Group CEO Edmund Scanlon said he remains committed to an M&A strategy.
"There is an ambition and a capability within the organisation that if an acquisition regardless of scale hits a certain set of criteria - the number one being creating value for our shareholders - we would move forward," he said.
He said the company has "a long track record of financial discipline, which will not change".
"Because of our scale and business model and the strength of our balance sheet, we will always be linked with anything that comes up. That doesn't mean we are going to do it," he said.
Kerry reported record profits of €903m for 2019. Its growth increasingly comes from Asia, but Kerry is predicting a 30pc fall in its Chinese revenue in the first three months of this year, as a result of coronavirus disrupting businesses there.
China accounts for around 0.5pc of revenue in Kerry's taste and nutrition arm, but Mr Scanlon expects the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) markets to overtake Europe to be Kerry's second-biggest market "in the not too distant future".
Kerry has five plants in China, which are currently operating with "skeleton crews". The company expects its manufacturing facilities to return to full capacity "over the coming weeks."
From a supply chain perspective, the majority of what the company manufactures in China is sourced and sold within the country. "We will keep an eye on it over the course of the next weeks and months," Mr Scanlon said.
Longer term, he is "really confident" about the area's prospects in the medium and long term.
"I would absolutely expect that Asia will be significantly bigger than the Europe region in the not too distant future. It is growing 10pc per year organically, it is already almost the same size of Europe, which is growing at 2-3pc," he said.
Kerry reported a 12pc jump in profit of €902.7m for 2019 as revenues rose 9.6pc to €7.2bn.
The performance was driven by Kerry's €6bn taste and nutrition division, which reported volume growth of 4pc over the 12 months, despite "softer market volumes in some developed markets".