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Philippines' Monde Nissin buying UK meat substitute firm Quorn for US$831m

A customer purchases "instant noodle-flavoured" ice cream in a restaurant at the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama, suburban Tokyo on August 13, 2015.

[MANILA] Philippine instant noodles maker Monde Nissin Corp is buying British meat substitute company Quorn Foods for 550 million pounds (US$831 million) to capitalise on rising demand for health foods, in what will be the third largest overseas purchase by a firm in the Southeast nation.

Monde Nissin beat competition from some global food giants to clinch the deal for Quorn, which had sales of 150.3 million pounds in 2014. UK-based investment firms Exponent Private Equity and Intermediate Capital Group, Quorn's owners, announced the sale on Wednesday.

The deal comes as Asian firms are increasingly venturing outside of their home markets in search of targets in the food and drinks sector. "It's a matter of diversification," Augusto Cosio, fund manager at Manila-based First Metro Asset Management Inc, said on Thursday of Monde Nissin's Quorn buy. "Their income is already too dependent on one market." Reuters had previously reported that Monde Nissin was among the parties to have shown interest in Quorn Foods. It attracted interest from French yogurt company Danone, Singapore-based Wilmar International, Canadian French fries producer McCain and Ireland's Kerry Group, sources had said.

Quorn is a mycoprotein meat substitute, made by fermenting a type of fungus. It is sold on its own, in ready-meals or in products that replicate burgers, sausages or chicken fillets.

Quorn Foods aimed to benefit from a trend of consumers eating healthier food and less meat. It claims that in the past five years it has cut 60 billion calories from consumers' diets.

Monde Nissin is owned by Betty Ang, the Philippines' 19th richest person, and is planning an IPO as early as 2016. Earlier this year, it bought Australia's Black Swan, a brand of chilled dips, and Nudie, which sells premium juices.

It has ambitions to do larger deals and emerge as a 'health and wellness company, according to one person familiar with the company.

The Quorn deal is being funded by Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), BDO Unibank Inc and Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co, Reginaldo Anthony Cariaso, chief operating officer of BPI's investment banking subsidiary, told Reuters.

Monde Nissin did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Among Philippine firms, Emperador Inc purchased scotch whisky firm Whyte & Mackay for 430 million pounds while Universal Robina Corp bought Griffin's Foods in New Zealand for NZ$700 million, both in 2014.

Elsewhere, Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital bought Britain's Pizza Express chain last year for around 900 million pounds.