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Why Welbilt is the Harry Kane of the catering equipment world

Welbilt Harry Kane

Once England’s journey at Euro 2020 reaches its conclusion (be it tonight* or Sunday), the back pages of the tabloids will almost certainly switch their attention to where Harry Kane will be plying his trade next season.

The Three Lions talisman seems certain to be leaving Tottenham Hotspur once his international commitments are over, but with Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris St Germain reportedly among the names preparing to swoop, it’s not completely clear whose shirt he’ll be wearing once the new season gets underway. He could still remain at White Hart Lane, of course.

In a parallel catering equipment universe right now, Welbilt finds itself in a similar position – not knowing for certain whose colours it will be sporting come the end of the summer. Will it be the navy and red of Middleby? The blue and white of Ali Group? Or somebody else altogether?

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The next five days could go a long way to answering that question following the latest chapter of an M&A saga that will reshape the pecking order of the global foodservice equipment market irrespective of what happens.

To keep up the football analogy, Welbilt had agreed terms with Middleby and made all the right noises about why the takeover was such a good move for the future of its business.

But in football the deal is never done until you see the player on the pitch, scarf above head. There is always the risk of one party backing out.

And that’s exactly what has happened in this instance after Ali Group offered up more cash and better terms earlier this week.

Welbilt shareholders were due to vote on Middleby’s proposal on 21 July – but last night Welbilt’s board said that Ali Group’s offer of $24 a share – implying an enterprise value of $4.8 billion – was much more attractive.

“The Welbilt board of directors, in consultation with its legal and financial advisors, has determined that the revised unsolicited proposal from Ali Holding S.r.l. constitutes a ‘company superior proposal’,” it stated.

Prior to receiving notice of Welbilt’s intention to terminate the agreement, Middleby itself had issued a statement insisting that its original offer was still superior to Ali Group’s proposal.

It argues that its proposed transaction will be tax-free to Welbilt’s shareholders, overcome regulatory hurdles quicker and isn’t bound by any financing requirements.

So what happens next? Middleby now has five business days to negotiate amendments to its offer should it wish to do so. If it does, the pendulum could well swing the other way again.

There is no telling exactly how long it will drag on for or how it will end.

But one thing that Harry Kane and Welbilt shareholders have in common is that they both hold all the power.

*Please let’s not lose on penalties

Tags : Ali GroupMiddleby CorporationWelbilt
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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