Belgium-based private equity firm Verlinvest is to gain joint control of Tony's Chocolonely, a Dutch sustainable chocolate company, according to a competition authority filing.
The filing, dated 8 February, states that Verlinvest will share control of the confectioner with shell company A Genuine Chocolate Factory.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Verlinvest, the investment fund of the De Spoelberch family, acquired a minority stake of around 26% in the business in February 2020, according to Het Financieele Dagblad. A press release at the time confirmed that the company struck an investment partnership with Verlinvest and London-based venture capital firm JamJar. At the time, it was reported that Tony's had hired Rabobank to help the company find an investment partner. Existing shareholders include Tony's employees and JamJar.
According to Het Financieele Dagblad, Verlinvest will hold the largest stake in Tony's following reports that the major shareholder of the company was selling part of its shares. The report was confirmed following the filing published by the ACM. The report noted that Henk Jan Beltman, director and major shareholder, said that following this deal his own shares will reduce from about 42% to around 26%; he did not disclose the financials of the transaction. The director told the Dutch media that, although Verlinvest is the largest shareholder, this does not mean the GP is in charge. According to Beltman, the GP must include him in big decisions and this was also the case when he was the largest shareholder of the business. The shares have been sold to pay off debts in Beltman's personal company.
In 2018, Beltman told the Dutch media that in order to accelerate growth he was in favour of selling the slave-free chocolate company to a multinational fast-moving consumer goods company like Nestlé or Mondelez.
Verlinvest is a privately owned family investment company that is backed by the Belgian family shareholders of the controlling group of AB-InBev. The firm was established in 1995 and has offices in New York, Brussels, London, Mumbai and Singapore. The GP has more than USD 3bn in assets under management.
According to a spokesperson for the GP, since its investment in Tony's in 2020, the GP has helped accelerate growth by introducing the brand to international markets allowing it to scale globally.
The GP invests in companies operating in the consumer goods and services, healthcare, industrials, technology and telecommunications sectors, according to Unquote Data. The GP is no stranger to investing in food businesses. In November 2016 it invested in Mutti, an Italy-based producer of tomato products; and in December 2016 it invested in Oatly, a Sweden-based producer of dairy alternatives.
Verlinvest declined to comment.
Tony's was founded in 2006 by three Dutch journalists with a mission to free cocoa-based products from illegal child labour. The company retails 100% slave-free chocolate products. It has around 11-50 employees, according to Crunchbase.
Statista reported that in 2018/19 the company generated around EUR 53m (75%) of its revenues in the Netherlands, with significant sales in other countries as well. According to statistics published by Statista, the company had revenues of around EUR 6m in the US and had overall net revenue of around EUR 70m in 2018/19. Het Financieele Dagblad noted that over the course of 2019 the company's turnover increased by more than 25% to EUR 69.6m.
Tony's Chocolonely – Henk Han Beltmas (director).
Verlinvest – Ben Black (partner).
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