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Ontario Teachers strikes deal to buy U.K. maker of Wagon Wheels

Wagon Wheels, made by Britain’s Burton’s Biscuit.

Burton’s Biscuit website

Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan is biting into Britain's food business with the acquisition of the biscuit company that makes Jammie Dodgers and Wagon Wheels.

The $130-billion pension operator said on Monday it has struck a deal to buy Burton's Biscuit Company, whose roots go back to the mid-1800s.

Terms of the transaction were not announced, but St. Albans-based Burton's has annual sales in the £340-million ($480-million Canadian) range and employs about 2,000 people in three main manufacturing facilities.

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The sellers are Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management LLC.

The acquisition agreement is the culmination of a competitive bidding process, said Teachers.

Burton's other well-known brands include Cadbury Fingers, Maryland Cookies and Lyons.

Teachers is making its mark in the U.K. with a string of purchases over the past several years, including a $595-million deal three years ago to purchase Camelot Group PLC, the operator of the national lottery.

Last month, the giant pension-plan fund manager was part of a consortium that has been named the preferred bidder to operate Ireland's national lottery, based on an offer of about $567-million to clinch a 20-year contract.

In September, Teachers' said it has been named the preferred bidder for Busy Bees, Britain's largest daycare provider with 212 centres offering services to 19,000 children.

The Burton's transaction is being handled by Teachers' private equity investment division Teachers' Private Capital.

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Burton's management will retain a "significant minority stake in the company," said Teachers.

"We look forward to supporting Burton's outstanding management team to grow the business in the U.K. and further into overseas markets. There are also many strategic acquisitions to consider in those territories that can enhance these ambitious growth plans," said Jo Taylor, head of Teachers' London office.

"With its portfolio of iconic brands, Burton is set to lead the premium biscuit market for some time to come and use product innovation to appeal to consumers looking for delicious treats and snacks inside and outside the home."

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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