Nestle is trying to buy control of Edmonton-based Champion Petfoods for more than US$2 billion, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The article, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, says the global food and beverage giant is in talks to purchase a majority share of the specialty maker of dog and cat food, although the negotiations could break down before a deal is reached.
Champion officials couldn’t be reached Tuesday, but in a statement the company declined to comment on what it called “speculation in the market.”
“Rumours about Champion being sold have been circulating over the past few years and will continue for as long we deliver on our promise to make the world’s best pet food under our ACANA and ORIJEN brands,” the statement says.
“Champion Petfoods continues to be privately held with investment from our Canadian partner, (Toronto’s) Bedford Capital, and our vision remains — build trust with pet lovers everywhere.”
The company announced in 2017 it was building a 37,000-square-metre kitchen in Parkland County’s Acheson Industrial Park on Edmonton’s western border that would greatly expand its production capacity.
The site was expected to cost more than $200 million.
Chief executive Frank Burdzy said at the time there wasn’t enough room to expand the existing Morinville facility, but the site would continue current output and could add other products.
The firm has a small operation in Oakville, Ont., and a production kitchen in Auburn, Ky., that opened in 2016 to serve the American market.
The company has a total of 550 employees and sells its products in more than 80 countries.
Nestle already owns American pet food producer Purina.
Champion is owned by Champion Petfoods (GP) Ltd., which has seven directors based in Toronto, corporate records show.
They include Bedford Capital managing directors Tim Bowman and Elliott Knox, Kensington Capital Partners chairman Tom Kennedy, and three people from an arm of the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan.
The company was founded in 1975 by Reinhard Muhlenfeld, a German immigrant who bought a feed mill in Westlock with other investors and later expanded to Barrhead.
It had seven employees in 1990.
Class action lawsuits were filed against Champion last March in California, Wisconsin and other states alleging its dog food contains levels of heavy metals and toxins that might make the food unsafe, and this was not disclosed.
The company says its products are safe, none has been recalled and describes the claims as baseless.
It has filed to have the lawsuits dismissed.