The deal is one of the largest takeovers so far this year in Europe, and is the latest coffee acquisition for Benckiser, an investment vehicle for the wealthy Reimann family of Germany, which also owns well-known brands like Jimmy Choo shoes and Sally Hansen nail polish.
It is the third such deal in recent years for the conglomerate. Last year, Benckiser acquired Caribou Coffee and Peet’s Coffee & Tea in separate acquisitions for a combined $1.3 billion.
Its latest takeover represents a different strategy, as it will take on the likes of Nestlé in the $116 billion global coffee and tea industry by expanding the Western European operations of the Dutch owner of Douwe Egberts coffee and other brands. The company is also looking at expanding in emerging markets through acquisitions.
D.E. Master Blenders will face tough competition. While it holds dominant market shares in countries like France and the Netherlands, as well as in the large developing economy of Brazil, it still lags rivals like the Kraft spin-off Mondelez International, the world’s second largest coffee company behind Nestlé.
The two rivals have been able to crack into the fast-growing growth of many Asian countries, while the Dutch coffee company -- the third biggest based on sales -- also has struggled to break into the American coffee and tea market.
“D.E. Master Blenders is relatively weak in a lot of key emerging markets,” said Michael Schaefer, head of beverage and foodservice research at the market researcher Euromonitor International in Chicago. “They still have a lot of work to do there.”
“There’s no question it’s a high price,” Bart Becht, chairman of Benckiser and former chief executive of the European household products giant Reckitt Benckiser, said in an interview with DealBook. “But if you put the right people in place and make the right investments, this business can compete.”
The multibillion-dollar takeover has been almost a year in the works. Master Blenders was spun out of Sara Lee last year, and makes pods for Nespresso machines and owns a number of coffee and tea brands.
Benckiser had progressively built a 15 percent holding in the Dutch coffee company initially as a minority shareholder, but eventually approached Master Blenders at the beginning of March about a potential takeover deal.
The coffee company, though, has been hit by a series of setbacks since listing on the Amsterdam stock exchange in June. Earlier this year, Master Blenders cut its sales forecasts for 2013 because of tough competition from rivals, while its former chief executive, Michiel Herkemij, resigned in December after less than a year in charge.
The proposed deal will be put to Master Blenders’ shareholders in early July, though the Dutch coffee company said it reserved the right to cancel its support for the takeover if another higher offer was submitted.