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Costa Group transitions to new ownership with experienced consortium at helm

Costa Group has marked a new milestone in its 120-year history as ownership formally changed hands yesterday (Monday 26 February). The company was delisted from the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) earlier this month, paving the way for this transition. Shareholders of Costa Group unanimously approved an offer of AUD 3.20 per share from a consortium comprising Paine Schwartz Partners, Driscoll’s and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation. Originally founded by the Costa family in Geelong, Victoria, during the late 1800s, the company has evolved into a prominent player in the global horticultural landscape, known for its fresh produce portfolio encompassing blueberries, glasshouse tomatoes, citrus fruits, avocados, mushrooms and table grapes. As of February 2024, Costa's production and grower network spans across Australia, China, Morocco and southern Africa, facilitating distribution channels to numerous countries worldwide, including Europe, the UK, Asia and North America. Costa's work in genetic development and novel plant varieties – particularly in the blueberry sector – has solidified its standing within the industry. Notably, the introduction of four new blueberry varieties in 2023, US-based Paine Swartz Partners brings a wealth of experience in agricultural and food supply chain investments, having allocated $5.7 billion to the sector over several decades. Its prior involvement with Costa includes investments in entities such as Monterey Mushrooms and AgroFresh. Driscoll’s, globally recognised for its berry breeding and marketing activities, holds a history of successful joint ventures with Costa in Australia and China. This collaboration is expected to enhance Costa's operational capabilities and potentially broaden its market reach. “We welcome the Costa Group into the Driscoll’s family and look forward to deepening our relationship with even more deliberate collaboration across the globe,” said Soren Bjorn, CEO of Driscoll’s. “This is one of the largest equity investments Driscoll’s has ever made, which speaks to the formidable partnership and considerable value we see in the Costa portfolio and the company’s long-term future and growth prospects.” Moving forward, Costa and Driscoll’s will embark on targeted initiatives to bolster the global berry business, while existing partnerships in key regions such as China, Australia and the Americas remain uninterrupted. British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, an institutional investor managing CAD 233.0 billion in gross assets, brings financial resources and strategic insights to the consortium. Its portfolio includes investments in Viterra, as well as mushroom and citrus businesses. Harry Debney, Interim CEO of Costa Group, commented: “The Costa team is looking forward to the future and working with its new owners, who given their extensive background of investing in and operating high-quality agricultural assets, are committed to further building the business’s capacity and ensuring its ongoing success.”

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