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Italian Candy Maker Ferrero To Acquire British Rival

Italian chocolate giant Ferrero SpA will acquire Thorntons PLC for $177.7 million.

Italian chocolate giant Ferrero SpA will acquire U.K.-based Thorntons PLC for $177.7 million, according to reports.

The move is the first acquisition for Ferrero since the death of longtime company executive Michele Ferrero earlier this year.

His death fueled speculation that the family-owned company could become a takeover target; instead, his son Giovanni oversaw a rare overseas merger.

Thorntons, founded in Sheffield more than a century ago, would give Ferrero an additional platform in the world's third-largest confectionery market.

Ferrero plans to maintain the Thorntons brand name and expects to market its premium brands in Thorntons' retail shops. In addition to Ferrero Rocher chocolate, the company owns Nutella, Kinder and Tic Tac.

The acquisition would also expand Ferrero's existing production capacity in the U.K.; the company will keep the Thorntons plant in central England in operation.

The $177.7 million price tag represented a 43 percent premium on Thorntons' stock price late last week.

Ferrero previously set a goal of doubling its annual revenue by the early 2020s.