French duo on a billion dollar hunt in the food sector

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French businessmen Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse want to go on a takeover hunt in the European food sector with a so-called blanchocheque company.

A SPAC or ‘blank check company’ is an empty shell that raises capital from the general public through an IPO, and then makes acquisitions. In recent months, SPACs have been all the rage in the US, but Niel and Pigasse also introduced the formula in France. The two businessmen already launched a fund to make acquisitions in the media sector in 2016, under the name Mediawan.

Just like then, they are now bringing a third man on board their investment vehicle: Moez-Alexandre Zouari, the owner of the French frozen food company Picard Surgelés.

Environmentally friendly

The name 2MX Organic refers on the one hand to the initials of the first names of the initiators, and on the other hand to the focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly food companies. The first major takeover could take place early next year, and have a value of 1.5 to 2 billion euros, an informed source told Reuters.

After listing on Euronext Paris, the vehicle can raise additional capital. The subscription period for the IPO of 2MX Organic starts on Monday and runs until December 7. The founders will also invest money, but control no more than 29.6 percent of the stock. The operation’s financial advisers are Deutsche Bank and Société Générale.

The world

Telecom magnate Niel and ex-banker Pigasse have been two hands on one in French business for years. In 2010, together with Pierre Bergé, partner of the late fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent, they took over the ailing newspaper Le Monde. ‘Three left-wing rascals steal Le Monde’, De Tijd then headlined. In 2014 they also added Le Nouvel Observateur to their portfolio.

Niel is a self-made entrepreneur who had his first business successes with erotic services on the former Minitel network. His business breakthrough came with his internet and telephony company Free, which achieved success as a challenger to the major telecom groups.

Pigasse is its opposite in many ways. He graduated from the elite school ENA and worked in the cabinet of the then PS minister and ex-IMF CEO Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the late 1990s. Pigasse led the French arm of the prestigious investment bank Lazard for many years and therefore has an extensive address book. But he also likes to present himself as an atypical businessman who hates the bourgeoisie. In 2009, he bought the rebellious magazine Les Inrockuptibles.

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