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Business deals

Godiva sells Asia business to South Korea's MBK for $1bn

Private equity firm wins drawn-out bidding war for chocolatier

Godiva's Japanese business spans 300 locations, including this store in Tokyo.

TOKYO -- Belgian chocolatier Godiva said Wednesday it has agreed to sell its Asian-Pacific assets to MBK Partners, a South Korean private equity group, capping months of intrigue over a crowded bidding war.

The transaction, valued at over $1 billion, is set to close in the middle of the year.

MBK will take over Tokyo-based Godiva Japan, as well as operations in South Korea and Oceania. These businesses generate about 40 billion yen ($360 million) in annual sales, with over 90% reportedly coming from Japan. MBK will also purchase a plant in Brussels to maintain flexible product development.

Yildiz Holding, Godiva's Turkish parent since 2008, will remain owner of the Godiva brand, while granting MBK a perpetual license in Godiva Japan's service area.

A collapse in the Turkish lira amplified Yildiz's liabilities associated with debt denominated in foreign currencies, which the group used to finance past purchases. That prompted Yildiz to initiate the process last fall to offload Godiva's Asia assets.

The bidding apparently included the likes of Hong Kong asset manager Baring Private Equity Asia and a Japanese consortium formed by trading house Mitsubishi Corp. and subsidiary Marunouchi Capital. Godiva ended up going with MBK, a group known for closing big deals in China and South Korea. In Japan, MBK Partners concluded the purchase of electronic parts trader Kuroda Electric.

Godiva's Japanese business spans roughly 300 outlets. The confection maker started selling in convenience stores in 2010, which helped triple sales over the past seven years. Godiva leads Japan's gift chocolate market with a 26% share, data from Euromonitor shows.

Godiva launched operations in Japan in 1972, when Japanese food trader Kataoka and Co. started importing Godiva products. Godiva dissolved the contract with Kataoka in 2015, gaining direct control over all of its outlets in the country.

Nikkei staff writers Shinichiro Ibusuki, Rei Nakafuji and Motokazu Matsui contributed to this article.

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