French GP buys country’s largest organic wholesaler in €150m deal

Céréa Partenaire used its €225m Capital II fund to buy acquire Organic Alliance alongside three co-investors.

The fund management unit of France’s Unigrains has completed its purchase of Organic Alliance, the country’s largest organic wholesaler, from compatriot Naxicap Partners.

Céréa Partenaire made the investment through its Capital II vehicle, closed on €225 million in January. Two investors in the fund – Unigrains and insurer MACSF – also contributed equity to the deal, with Naxicap also understood to be pledging a small follow-on ticket. Paris-based Idinvest and Céréa Mezzanine III, another fund managed by Céréa Partenaire pledged debt through a unitranche instrument.

No price was disclosed but a source familiar with the deal told Agri Investor it valued Organic Alliance at €150 million, or 10 times it EBITDA. The company has grown 20 percent annually in recent years, according to the source, in line with the French organic sector at large.

Céréa Partenaire declined to comment, while Naxicap and Idinvest had not responded to requests for further details by the time of publication.

The company, which has more than 250 staff, generated about €230 million in sales last year. Céréa Partenaire declined to comment on pricing, while Naxicap and Idinvest had not responded to requests for further details by the time of publication.

Organic Alliance comprises two subsidiaries. Created in 1987, Pronatura was acquired by Naxicap and French businessman Lionel Wolberg in 2014. It distributes products sourced from a network of 1,500 small organic producers, of which 65 percent are based in France.

Vitafrais, for its part, was acquired by Organic Alliance last year. It distributes fresh and ultrafresh organic products, primarily sourced in France. Both subsidiaries sell most of their goods through specialized distribution channels.

“The organic sector is growing steadily these past years, driven by consumer demand for healthier, better quality and traceable products. This growth calls for the rapid and strong structuring of market actors both in France and abroad,” said Wolberg, who is now president of Organic Alliance.

Céréa Partenaire and Idinvest used unitranche debt to finance the deal.