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Flowers Foods Set to Buy Wonder Bread

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Flowers Foods is set to buy Hostess Brands bread brands including Wonder bread for $360 million, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, giving the No. 2 U.S. baking company a bigger slice of the fast-consolidating bread business.

Pending approval from a U.S. bankruptcy court judge, Wonder Bread, along with Butternut, Home Pride, Merita and Nature's Pride, will go to Flowers after no other bidder stepped up to make a competing offer, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Shares of Flowers, which makes Nature's Own bread and Tastykake snacks, were up 5.5 percent in early afternoon trade, as the deal is expected to boost the company's margins and earnings.

Hostess, which is liquidating its business after 82 years, was set to run an auction on Thursday for the brands, but there will be no auction since there were no other bids, the source said.

There will be an auction for the Beefsteak brand, for which Flowers bid $30 million, since Hostess received a higher bid from Mexico's Grupo Bimbo, said the source, who declined to be named as the process is private.

Bimbo bid $1 million more for the Beefsteak brand, though its $31.9 million bid includes a $900,000 breakup fee.

Hostess declined to comment. Flowers and Bimbo did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Flowers agreed in January to be the "stalking horse" bidder, which set a floor for the bidding and was subject to a court-supervised auction.

Flowers, founded in 1919 in Thomasville, Georgia, has grown over the years through a string of acquisitions. It was the one-time owner of well-known brands including Keebler Foods and Mrs. Smith's pies.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst William Chappell expects the Hostess deal to add at least 30 cents per share to Flowers' earnings once the brands are integrated. He expects to hear more about the company's estimates and strategy at a company-sponsored analyst meeting in New York next month. He has a "Buy" rating on the stock.

Hostess expects to run two more auctions next month. One would be for the Hostess snackcake brands, including Hostess Twinkies and Dolly Madison, for which private equity firms Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co set the bidding at $410 million.

The other would be for its Drake's cake business and additional bread brands. So far, McKee Foods, maker of Little Debbie snack cakes, offered $27.5 million for Drake's, which includes Ring Dings, Yodels and Devil Dogs.

United States Bakery, also known as Franz Family Bakery, agreed to pay $28.85 million for the Sweetheart, Eddy's, Standish Farms and Grandma Emilie's bread brands.

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