Ralf Majer-Abele
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Coronavirus accelerates consolidation wave

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Up to now, the pet supplies sector has survived the coronavirus pandemic remarkably well. While many business branches have struggled during lockdowns and contact restrictions, sales of pet food and accessories have boomed in every region of the world. At a time when indulging in popular leisure pursuits such as travel, going out and attend­ing sports and cultural events has been virtually impossible, people across the planet are focused instead on turning their homes into a pleasant and comfortable refuge. For many, this includes the desire to own a pet. In some countries, the dog and cat population has risen by 20 per cent or more during the pandemic. Demand for small animals, ornamental fish and even reptiles has also increased significantly.
As was the case during the last recession, the pet sector has once again proved extraordinarily crisis-proof in the face of the coronavirus. As a result, it has become a more attractive target for private equity companies and investors. Safe, reliable investment opportunities have been thin on the ground in these uncertain times; innovative pet product firms with a proven track record are thus in considerable demand. The USA in particular has seen a number of takeovers in recent months, with the Clearlake Capital Group acquiring pet food manufacturer Wellpet and the holistic nutrition provider Solid Gold Pet being sold to the H & H Group from Hong Kong. The speciality chain Pet Supplies also has a new proprietor in the Franchise Group.
In Europe, the pet supplies market is likewise experiencing a process of consolidation, although the acquisitions are being instigated chiefly by players aiming to gain a stronger foothold. Europe's leading pet retailer Fressnapf has pounced in Denmark and snapped up the Pet World store chain, while in Italy, Ferplast has bought up its former competitor Marchioro. Hungary-based pet food manufacturer Partner in Pet Food has swallowed up the Italian company Landini Giuntini, and the Czech pet food manufacturer Vafo has taken a minority share in the UK enterprise Pooch & Mutt. One move that has attracted particular attention is the purchase by Peruvian investor group Emefin of the Animalis pet retail chain in France, following its earlier acquisition of Spanish pet store chains Kiwoko and Tiendanimal. The takeover is another indication of the growing degree of concentration in European pet product retailing.
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