TPG invests $750 mln in Chobani

Target: Chobani

Price: $750 million

Sponsor: TPG Capital

Financial Adviser: Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Legal Counsel: Target: Kirkland & Ellis; Sponsor: Ropes & Gray

New Berlin, New York-based Chobani had run into liquidity problems resulting in part from the opening of its $450 million yogurt manufacturing plant in Idaho, which took longer to ramp up than the company anticipated, the people told sister news service Reuters.

The TPG investment, which comes in the form of a second lien loan, comes with warrants that could give the private equity firm up to a 35 percent stake in Chobani down the line.

A Chobani spokesman declined to comment on the company’s financial situation before TPG’s investment.

Chobani hired Bank of America Corp to sell a minority stake in the company and had spoken to private equity firms and consumer companies to gauge their interest, Reuters first reported on March 11.

Founded in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani started operating from a former Kraft Foods yogurt plant in South Edmeston, New York. Its product became one of the top-selling Greek yogurt brands in the United States.

Chobani’s 2013 annual revenue exceeded $1 billion.

Greek-style yogurt, which is thicker, creamier and often higher in protein than other types of yogurt, now makes up more than 40 percent of the U.S. yogurt market, worth $7.4 billion, according to research firm Mintel.

Chobani competes with brands such as Danone SA’s Oikos and General Mills Inc’s Yoplait.

Chobani was advised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. TPG was advised by the law firm Ropes & Gray.

Olivia Oran and Greg Roumeliotis are correspondents for Reuters in New York.