IFF shares sink on expensive plant-based meat bet with Dupont

(Reuters) - Shares of International Flavors & Fragrances Inc IFF.N sank on Monday after the company agreed to an expensive multi-billion dollar merger with a division of Dupont Inc DD.N, raising concerns about IFF's high debt pile.

As part of the deal, IFF will pay DuPont shareholders $7.3 billion in a special cash payment, adding to its long-term debt of roughly $4 billion.

The deal, announced Sunday, will more than double the size of IFF, raising its enterprise value to $45.4 billion.

DuPont shareholders will own 55.4% of the shares of IFF, but IFF Chief Executive Officer Andreas Fibig will run the combined company and also continue to be the board chairman.

The deal will bring together the nutrition and biosciences business of DuPont, which makes the protein used in plant-based patties produced by firms such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat BYND.O, and IFF that provides flavor, seasoning and natural color for these vegan burgers.

While the deal gives the combined company heft in the global plant-based meat market, which is expected to explode to an estimated $140 billion in annual sales over the next decade, Stephens analyst Mark Connelly said the price tag was higher-than-expected.

“We had the Nutrition and Bio business at ~$21.9 billion, versus the nominal ~$26.2 billion in this deal. The new IFF shares will represent a substantial overhang for investors,” Connelly said.

Shares in Dupont were unchanged, and those of IFF closed down more than 10% at $120.

“We also think deal complexity and time from announcement to closing, at least a year, is likely to increase risk of share loss,” Stifel analysts said.

The fast-growing plant-based market is being fueled by increasingly health-conscious consumers who want to cut down on eating meat and worry about the environmental impact of industrial animal farming.

U.S. plant-based protein maker Beyond Meat’s stock has tripled since it went public in May even though it is yet to turn a profit.

The “beyond-meat” category would be among the expected top-line synergies from the deal, Fermium Research analyst Frank Mitsch said.

“In our food and beverage segment, we have one of the broadest portfolios of natural and plant-based specialty food ingredients. This is where consumers are headed, and we are leading the way,” Matthias Heinzel, DuPont’s president of nutrition & health said on a call with analysts.

Dupont, hived off from the chemical giant of the same name earlier this year, has got the best of the deal, which creates a new consumer player valued at more than $45 billion.

Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar, Shariq Khan and Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Shinjini Ganguli