Elder poultry entrepreneurs looking for a sale

Peter and David Bartter, the founders of the Bartter-Steggles poultry meat empire, are looking to sell their life’s work.

Peter Bartter started his business in 1955 to produce eggs for a Junior Farmers rural project in Griffith New South Wales. His brother David joined five years later.

The company expanded into chicken meat in the 1980s and sold its egg business to producer Frank Pace in 2002.

In 1999, the business became a poultry empire when the brothers bought Goodman Fielder’s Steggles chicken brand. It now claims 26% of the chicken meat market, second only to Inghams at about 30%.

Annual sales reached more than $800 million in 2006-07 and earnings are reported to be forecast by the company to reach $50 million this year.

Last May, BRW valued the brothers’ personal fortune at $280 million, down from $300 million the previous year.

Peter Bartter, 70, and brother David, 74, hope to sell 100% of their interest so the new owner can expand the business further, but will consider partial bids. Indicative offers are due by the end of February and final bids by the end of March.

The business is expected to fetch between $330 million and $420 million, reports The Australian Financial Review, based on forecast EBITDA of $47 million and sales of $860 million for 2007-08. And private equity firms have reportedly shown interest.

But the Bartter brothers might find it difficult to find a buyer for their chicken empire as the obvious purchaser Inghams would probably strike competition concerns. The rest of the market is smaller family-owned companies, such as Baida, Golden Cockerell and La Ionica.

The poultry meat industry is competitive and likely to get tougher as grain prices rise thanks to drought and the increased demand for grain from biofuels. Recently the company has been investing in producing cooked and frozen chicken products.

The Bartters are the biggest employers in their home town of Griffith in New South Wales. Nationally, they employ more than 4500 people.



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