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McDonald's buns supplier Aryzta strikes deal with banks ahead of capital hike

The stage is set for raising 800 million euros in new capital to strengthen its balance sheet

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Shares in the maker of McDonald's burger buns to Otis Spunkmeyer cookies rose as much as 8 per cent after the company named BofA Merrill Lynch and UBS as lead managers. PHOTO: REUTERS

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ONE of the world's largest bakery companies, Aryzta, has agreed on an underwriting deal with five banks, setting the stage for raising 800 million euros (S$1.3 billion) in new capital to strengthen its balance sheet.

Shares in the maker of McDonald's burger buns to Otis Spunkmeyer cookies rose as much as 8 per cent after the company named BofA Merrill Lynch and UBS as lead managers, and Credit Suisse, JP Morgan and HSBC Bank plc as joint global coordinators of its capital raising.

The Swiss-Irish company has warned at least three times since 2017 that, due to rising distribution and labour costs in North America, there could be problems with undocumented workers at a US bakery, high butter prices and weak consumer spending in some European markets, particularly Britain following its vote to leave the European Union.

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Aryzta, which said last month it needed a cash infusion following a net loss of more than one billion euros in 2017, also said on Tuesday it had won the consent of a majority of its lenders to amend an existing facilities agreement.

As part of the deal, the company's net debt to covenant Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) will rise to 5.75 times, from four times for January 2019 and to 5.25 times for July 2019 from 3.5 times.

Analyst Andreas von Arx of Baader Helvea said the deal with banks and lenders "shows Aryzta is making progress towards the capital increase" and helped to reduce uncertainty.

"The amended credit conditions should provide the flexibility to execute on the turnaround measures," Mr von Arx wrote in a note to investors.

Even so, he is sticking with his "hold" rating, as Aryzta has failed repeatedly to deliver on priorities of selling assets or stabilising results. "For the time being there remain too many unknowns to credibly forecast a mid-term valuation," he said.

The shares are down more than 75 per cent this year.

Chief executive officer Kevin Toland, whose company also makes Cuisine de France bread, is still hoping to unload at least 450 million euros in assets, including its France-based Picard frozen food unit acquired during an ill-fated buying spree.

Aryzta also named new independent board members - former McDonald's USA president Michael Andres, Green Chile Foods chairman Gregory Flack and Tim Lodge, a former chief financial officer at agribusiness company COFCO International - to stand for election at its coming annual general meeting on Nov 1.

"Each brings significant and diverse industry experience which will be invaluable . . . as we deliver on what is a multi-year turnaround," Aryzta chairman Gary McGann said in a statement. REUTERS