Campbell Soup to buy Charlotte snack maker in $4.9 billion mega deal

CHARLOTTE, NC (Katherine Peralta/Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte-based Snyder's-Lance is selling itself to Campbell Soup for $4.87 billion.

In a statement Monday morning, the local snack maker said the all-cash deal has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies. The deal is expected to close early in the second quarter 2018.

Campbell Soup says the acquisition of Snyder's-Lance will accelerate its access to quickly growing avenues for distributing its goods, including convenience stores. News of the deal sent shares of Snyder's-Lance up 5.3 percent to $46.79 in early trading.

It is unclear whether the deal will result in any layoffs at the Snyder's-Lance corporate headquarters in Ballantyne, where the company employs about 1,300.

"Right now, we're still very early in this process and certain decisions have yet to be made. In the meantime, it is business as usual for us," Snyder's-Lance spokesman Joey Shevlin told the Observer in an email Monday.

CEO Brian Driscoll said the Campbell Soup deal is the best option for the Snyders'-Lance shareholders.

"Following a thorough review process of strategic options, we believe this transaction maximizes value for our shareholders through an immediate and certain cash premium. The transaction also unlocks the value of our portfolio, reflecting the progress we have made planning and executing our transformation," Driscoll said.

CNBC first reported earlier this month that Snyder's-Lance was considering putting itself up for sale after an initial takeover approach from Campbell Soup.

Snyder's-Lance is the product of the 2010 merger of Pennsylvania-based Snyder's of Hanover and Charlotte-based Lance. Over the last several years, the company has been working to boost its portfolio of "better-for-you products," including through its $1.9 billion purchase of San Francisco-based Diamond Foods in March 2016.

Campbell Soup, based in New Jersey, already makes a number of well-known snacks, including Goldfish crackers and Milano cookies. The company says when the Snyder's-Lance deal closes, snacking will represent about 46 percent of Campbell's annual net sales. Soup would represent about 27 percent.

The sale of Snyder's-Lance means Charlotte is losing the headquarters of another major publicly traded company. The company was No. 862 on the 2017 Forbes list of Fortune 1000 companies.

The deal with Campbell Soup comes amid other major changes at the company, which is known for snacks such as Snyder's of Hanover pretzels, Lance peanut butter sandwich crackers and Pop Secret popcorn.

Last April, Carl Lee unexpectedly retired as CEO as the company said it faced "difficult challenges" that weighed on its profitability in the first quarter. Driscoll, the former CEO of Diamond Foods and a member of Snyder's-Lance's board, was named his successor in June. Following the leadership changes this summer, the company laid off dozens in its accounting department in Charlotte, opting to move the work up to its Pennsylvania office instead.

Late last year, Snyder's-Lance said it was selling Diamond Foods' nut business to a private equity firm, while keeping other Diamond products.

Also in 2016, the company announced plans to expand its Charlotte facility and add 130 new jobs over five years in exchange for about $1.6 million in incentives from the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. It is unclear if the Campbell Soup deal affects the expansion plans.