(Recasts; adds analyst quote, background, Givaudan declining to comment)
By Jonathan Saul and Arno Schuetze
LONDON/FRANKFURT, May 23 (Reuters) - Leading global agribusiness group Archer Daniels Midland Co is among the bidders for German drink and food flavors maker Wild in a transaction valued at 1.5 billion euros ($2.04 billion), sources familiar with the deal said on Friday.
Any buyer of Wild - the world’s sixth-biggest flavor provider - will get access to a large variety of extracts, seasonings and colours derived from natural sources, which are crucial components of processed foods and beverages. Customers are showing an increasing appetite for foods comprising only natural ingredients.
Sources told Reuters in March that Wild had put itself up for sale.
“The food additives side of the business is among the attractions,” one source said.
Illinois-based ADM declined to comment. The group is the world’s largest corn processor and one of the world’s top producers of food ingredients, with more than 270 processing plants on six continents.
ADM has been pursuing opportunities to expand its global reach since its $2.6 billion bid for grain handler GrainCorp was blocked by the Australian government in November. ADM announced in March that it is building a $250 million specialty protein plant in Brazil and this week said it is building a sweetener and soluble fiber complex in China.
“Wild Flavors would be a good fit with ADM and would help the company expand their presence in Europe and improve their value-added product mix,” said Farha Aslam, an analyst with Stephens Inc.
“We would estimate the transaction would be about 5 to 10 cents accretive to annual EPS including synergies,” she said.
Sources said other bidders for Wild included British food ingredients group Tate & Lyle PLC, Swiss scents and flavors firm Givaudan, Japanese seasonings maker Ajinomoto and private equity group EQT.
Tate & Lyle, Givaudan and EQT declined to comment. Ajinomoto and Wild could not be immediately reached for comment.
Hans-Peter Wild, son of founder Rudolf Wild, owns 65 percent of Wild Flavors, while buyout group KKR owns 35 percent. Wild is also the owner of a separate company which makes the Capri-Sun drink brand.
Since KKR’s investment in Wild, the flavor maker has bought several companies, including agribusiness group Cargill’s juice blends business, mint oil maker A.M. Todd and natural extracts maker Alfrebro.
The sale of Wild comes after German scents and flavours group Symrise said in April it would buy France’s Diana Group for an agreed 1.3 billion euros as a shake-up in the sector gathers pace.
Industry sources say Symrise is unlikely to target Wild after the purchase of Diana.
Wild, headquartered in Zug, Switzerland, was founded in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1931 as a producer of ingredients for non-alcoholic beverages. About 20 years later, it started selling Libella, Germany’s first carbonated juice drink based only on natural ingredients.
Wild Flavors posted 2013 sales of almost 900 million euros. ($1 = 0.7336 Euro) (Additional reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; editing by David Evans and G Crosse)