Marfin invests $555m in two deals

Greece’s Marfin Investment Group, which raised a jumbo €5.2 billion listed private equity fund last year, has acquired US-based Nonni’s Food Company and taken a controlling equity interest in Croatian tourism and leisure group Sunce Koncern.

Marfin Investment Group, the Greek investment powerhouse spun out of Marfin Popular Bank, will acquire Oklahoma-based Nonni’s Food Company from Chicago private equity firm Wind Point Partners for $320 million (€210 million).

MIG will purchase specialty baked goods maker Nonni’s through its food and beverage investment arm, Vivartia, as an add-on acquisition to expand from Europe into North America. Nonni’s will be the fifth company to be incorporated into Vivartia, which is publicly traded on the Athens Stock Exchange.

“Nonni’s has great brands with attractive, high-end products found from Safeway to Starbucks, and we believe it is a perfect fir for Vivartia as we expand into the North American market,” said MIG chief executive Dennis Malamatinas in a statement.

The transaction will be entirely funded by debt which has been secured from both Greek and international banks.

Wind Point originally acquired Nonni’s in partnership with Tim Harris, who was made chief executive, in April 2004. The company was purchased from an investor group led by lower middle-market private equity firm Swander Pace Capital which focusses on consumer products. Financial details were not disclosed.

MIG has also acquired a 75 percent stake in Croatian leisure and tourism firm Sunce Koncern for €155 million ($235 million).

The Croatian deal – a first for MIG since raising €5.2 billion last July for its South East Europe focussed fund – is an attempt to capitalise on the growth in tourism to the country as well as betting on real estate values rising.

Sunce owns and operates 11 hotels with 5,000 beds along the Adriatic coast under the Blue Sun Hotels & Resorts brand. It also owns a majority stake in the airport on Brac Island plus a huge development programme. According to MIG, Sunce has 860,000 square meters of land with permits in place for construction and development. Among the projects is Stubicke Toplice promising a large health tourism project with two hospitals, three hotels, as well as recreation and business facilities.

MIG says it expects the Sunce acquisition to close in the second quarter of the year.

“It represents an investment in three of MIG’s stated key sectors, [which are] tourism and leisure, healthcare and infrastructure,” said Andreas Vgenopolous, executive vice-chairman in a statement.

At the time of raising its mega fund, MIG said some of the capital would be deployed in companies with strong real estate exposure.

It has invested €360 million in Serbian real estate by gaining control in country’s leading department store chain, Robne Kuce Beograd, which owns 32 stores in prime retail locations. Nine of the stores are in Belgrade.

MIG and local Serb partner Verano are adopting a value-added strategy to the investment. In an interview with PEO’s sister publication PrivateEquityRealEstate.com in November, Matteo Stefanel, head of origination at MIG and head of investment banking at Marfin Popular Bank, said: “We are going to aggressively manage the retail space.” 

Mig has also invested in real estate by acquiring a 50 percent stake in Greek property company Attica Akinita, a real estate investment trust listed on the Athens Stock Exchange.

In addition, Marfin estimates that portfolio company Hellenic Telecommunications Organization owns more than €1 billion of property.

Suzanne Weinstock contributed to this report.