`To assess the Indian market as a possible future growth platform'

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There were a few other companies, including some Indian firms that were in the race for MTR Foods.

BangaloreFeb. 13Norway's Orkla has acquired Bangalore-based MTR Foods Ltd in a deal worth $80 million (Rs 354.08 crore).

The deal was signed on Friday in Singapore, where Orkla has an office.

The Orkla group operates in the branded consumer goods, speciality materials and financial investment sectors.

According to an official from MTR Foods, there were a few other companies, including some Indian firms that were in the race for MTR Foods. The bid from Orkla was the highest, he said. He, however, refused to disclose the names of the other bidders.

The official said: "The acquisition provides a financial backing and an opportunity for MTR Foods to utilise the distribution network of Orkla and take MTR's products into Europe. Orkla may also distribute its products in India."

The acquisition sees the exit of MTR Foods' shareholders Aquarius and J.P. Morgan and the sale of the 40 per cent stake held by MTR Foods' Chairman and Managing Director Mr Sadananda Maiya. However, the official said MTR Foods' management would continue under the leadership of Mr Maiya. MTR Foods' products ready-to-eat food and spices will continue to be sold under the same name, he added.

MTR Foods expects to finish 2006-07 with a turnover of Rs 165 crore. Last fiscal, its revenues stood at Rs 134 crore.

Mr Torkild Nordberg, the Executive Vice-President responsible for Orkla's Branded Consumer Goods business, said: "As a result of this acquisition we will be able to assess the Indian market as a possible future growth platform for Orkla's Branded Consumer Goods business at close quarters. MTR Foods is located in an interesting, growing market. We expect to spend some time learning and assessing the situation before any final decisions are made concerning further strategic investments in India."

According to Orkla's Web site, the company's branded consumer goods business consists of Orkla Foods and Orkla Brands. Orkla operates in product groups such as frozen pizza, ketchup, juice, jam, frozen ready meals, bread and yeast.

The Nordic region and the Baltic States are its domestic market. The consumer goods business is also strong in markets of Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Romania and Russia. In 2005, its annual operating revenues totalled NOK 19,737 million.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 14, 2007)
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