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Dairy giants fight over a shrinking pie

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Mergers and acquisitions in the dairy sector are continuing apace, as major players fight for a share of a shrinking pie, Rabobank said.

The bank's summary of 2015's top 20 biggest dairy companies showed the biggest three players all breaking out their chequebooks.

And as growth slows in China, the bank saw the world's dairy giants looking elsewhere for new acquisitions, with Africa now firmly on the dairy map.

Shrinking pie

"2015 proved to be a difficult year for most, with the strong US dollar and currency volatility, together with low commodity prices, reducing turnovers for most companies," Rabobank said.

"The big story in this year's top 20 list of dairy companies—based on turnover—is the shrinkage of the overall size of the pie."

"In US dollar terms, the top 20 posted combined dairy sales of $194bn in 2015, down 13% year on year," Rabobank noted.

Mergers continue apace

But Rabobank said that "mergers and acquisitions continued apace, as companies continued to seek additional value from domestic markets and new opportunities elsewhere".

"Mergers and acquisitions activity in 2015 was roughly equivalent to that seen in 2014," Rabobank said.

Acquisitions by Nestle, Lactalis, and Danone, the world's top three players, have all been rapid.

And there is more on the way in 2016, with Nestlé's pending joint venture with R&R Ice Cream likely to generate 2.7bn Swiss francs in sales.

Lactalis made nine acquisitions in in 2015m, and a further four so far in 2016.

"Incredibly, these range from Australia to India and from Turkey to Brazil—stretching the French giant into 43 countries," Rabobank said.

Dairy Farmers of America snapped up full ownership of the DairiConcepts joint venture, with New Zealand milk giant Fonterra.

And with Fonterra also selling off its Australian yoghurt business, Dairy Farmers of America overtook the New Zealand cooperative to fourth place on the list.

Out of China, into Africa

And as growth in Chinese dairy demand slows, major players are starting to look elsewhere, including Africa and Pakistan.

In 2015 Danone bought a yoghurt plant in Algeria, and increased its stake in a Moroccan venture, while in early 2016 the company bought a majority stake in the West Africa Fan Milk, and acquired Egypt's Halayeb dairy company.

Arla Foods has also been forming joint ventures, in West Africa

"In total, there were 14 deals in Africa [in 2015], with four more year-to-date in 2016," said Rabobank.

"This compares with only three deals recorded in Africa in the whole of 2014, making it clear that Africa is now definitely on the dairy map."


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