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Bean snacks: Hershey buys China's Golden Monkey

"Fast growing protein-based bean products" where Hershey has "yet to penetrate"

Hershey Co..'s Netherlands-based global division has agreed to buy Shanghai Golden Monkey Food Co., which employs 5,000 at five China factories making chocolates, other candies and "fast growing protein-based bean products," the Hershey, Pa.-based candymaker says here. Hershey will pay $498 million in cash and assume $86 million in Golden Monkey debt, pending approvals, the buyer says here.

Still a major employer in central Pennsylvania, Hershey has closed and demolished some of its older plants and is intent on expanding in faster-growing markets outside the U.S., including a new plant in Malaysia.

"Shanghai Golden Monkey is the type of business we've been focused on for potential M&A," Hershey International boss Humberto P. Alfonso said in the company's statement. "It fits Hershey's acquisition criteria: it is located in our primary international market, China; it is a pure play confectionery and snacks company; and it has distribution into channels where Hershey products have yet to penetrate." He called Golden Monkey an "iconic" China brand.

Golden Monkey founder Zhao Qisan plans to stay with the company along with a team of Hershey executives, once the sale is finalized.