U.S. private equity firm takes $3.5 billion bet on pets with Zooplus deal

(Reuters) -Zooplus, one of Europe’s largest online pet supplies’ retailers, said on Friday it had received and accepted a 3 billion euro ($3.5 billion) takeover offer from U.S. private equity firm Hellman & Friedman.

The offer represented a premium of 40% to the German company’s closing price on Thursday and was for a cash consideration of 390 euros per Zooplus share.

Zooplus shares surged 40% after news of the offer to 390 euros as of 0810 GMT, an all-time high.

The company, which has benefited from rising online demand for pet supplies during the pandemic, said in a statement that both its management and supervisory boards welcomed the takeover offer and intended to recommend it to shareholders.

“In our view, the offer provides Zooplus’ shareholders with a favourable opportunity,” Jefferies analysts said in a note.

Zooplus said it aimed to benefit from a market driven by increasing pet ownership, more demand for premium pet supplies, and a continued shift to online retail, expecting pet e-commerce to become mainstream in the coming years.

“The fast-evolving European pet market will provide significant opportunities for players, who master the continued shift towards online,” Chief Executive Cornelius Patt said.

Hellman & Friedman has already acquired several stakes in German companies in the past, including Axel Springer and AutoScout24.

Zooplus said Hellman & Friedman had signed irrevocable tender commitments for around 17% of Zooplus’ share capital.

In case of a successful closing of the offer, Hellman & Friedman intends to delist Zooplus, the company said.

($1 = 0.8521 euros)

Reporting by Bartosz Dabrowski in Gdansk; editing by Christopher Cushing, Jason Neely and Susan Fenton