Reckitt Benckiser in advanced talks to buy Mead Johnson

Reckitt Benckiser products displayed on a shelf in a mart
Reckitt Benckiser products displayed on a shelf in a mart

UK consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc. said it was in advanced talks to buy baby formula maker Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. in a $16.7 billion deal that would take it in a new direction and boost its business in Asia.

Reckitt Benckiser said late on Wednesday night it would pay $90 in cash for each Mead Johnson share, a 29.5 percent premium to Wednesday’s close.

Shares of Mead Johnson jumped 22 percent in after-market trading.

Mead Johnson, which makes Enfamil baby formula, has been seen as an attractive takeover target since being spun off from drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2009, due in part to its big international footprint in Latin America and Asia.

Reckitt’s proposed price represents a multiple of 17 times Mead Johnson’s estimated 2017 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), said analysts at Wells Fargo, falling short of the 20 times Nestle paid for Wyeth in 2012 and the 22 times Danone paid for Numico in 2007.

Still, the premium is in line with other recent consumer staples deals, and is appropriate given regulatory changes in China and price promotion, Wells Fargo said.

Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Durex condoms, Nurofen tablets and Scholl footcare products, said it expected to finance the proposed deal through cash and debt.

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