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- 2013 - January - 14th -

Flowers Foods agrees to buy Jacksonville Hostess bread bakery

by Mark Basch, Contributing Writer

Flowers Foods Inc. announced agreements Friday to buy six Hostess Brands Inc. bread brands and 20 Hostess bakeries, including its shuttered Jacksonville plant, for a total of $390 million.

The agreement is contingent on Hostess receiving no higher bids at an auction in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

Thomasville, Ga.-based Flowers did not say what it will do with the Jacksonville bakery and the other 19 facilities in its late Friday announcement. Flowers already operates its own bun and bread bakery in Jacksonville.

The Hostess bakery in North Jacksonville, which employed 128 people, and the company's other plants closed down in November after the company was unable to reach agreements with a bakers' union.

Hostess also had eight bakery outlet stores in Jacksonville that were shut down as the company closed all of its operations.

Irving, Tex.-based Hostess operated a total of 36 bakeries and had 570 outlet stores when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization a year ago.

The company now is looking to sell its facilities and its bakery brands, including the iconic Twinkies snack, in bankruptcy court.

Hostess produced Merita brand bread at its Jacksonville bakery, according to bankruptcy court documents. The other brands that Flowers would buy are Wonder, Nature's Pride, Home Pride, Butternut and Beefsteak.

"This agreement is consistent with Flowers Foods' long-term growth objectives to reach significantly more of the U.S. population with its fresh breads, buns, and rolls," said Flowers CEO George Deese in a news release.

"We believe these assets would enhance our ability, over time, to provide more U.S. consumers with quality baked foods at a good value through existing and new retail and foodservice customers," he said.

An auction is scheduled in bankruptcy court Feb. 28 to see if there are any higher bids. According to court documents, 13 other parties have submitted bids for the bread brands and assets.

After the auction, a hearing is scheduled for March 5 to approve the deal. Flowers said it would expect to close the deal shortly following court approval if it is the winning bidder.

mbasch@baileypub.com

(904) 356-2466

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