GNC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June, with Harbin serving as the stalking horse bidder (the initial agreement puts a value of over $750 million on GNC). Harbin’s interest was not unexpected after the Chinese pharmaceutical company previously invested $300 million into GNC.
In an 8-K filed with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), GNC stated that the stalking horse bid was accepted by the debtors on August 7 and this was approved by the Bankruptcy Court on August 19.
in its Notice of Auction Cancellation filed with the bankruptcy court dated today (September 14), GNC noted that the only qualified bid for the debtors’ assets was the Stalking Horse bid. (The auction was initially scheduled for tomorrow, September 15.)
A spokesperson for GNC told NutraIngredients-USA: “Harbin is a long-time and trusted partner of GNC, and we are excited to move forward with them in this process as we seek the Court’s approval of the transaction.
“We are pleased with the confidence our lenders and business partners have shown in the future of GNC throughout this process and are confident we will emerge a stronger business to the benefit of our associates, consumers, franchise partners and other stakeholders.”
On September 17, Judge Karen Owens of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware will hear any objections and ultimately approve a sale to the successful bidder.
“The completion of the approval process for the sale of the Assets pursuant to the Stalking Horse Agreement is expected to move expeditiously and the Debtors expect to emerge from the Chapter 11 proceedings early in the fourth quarter of 2020,” stated GNC’s SEC filing.
Safeguarding consumer data
The potential acquisition was the subject of some last-minute resistance from leading political figures, including Senator Marco Rubio who cited national security concerns in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and called for a full review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) of the potential acquisition.
Harbin’s interest in GNC had already been cleared by CFIUS review in 2018 when the Chinese pharmaceutical company became the supplement player’s majority stakeholder.
In response to the concerns raised by Sen Rubio, the GNC spokesperson said: “Nothing is more important to GNC than the trust of our customers. Our consumer data is safeguarded by rigorous standards and none of it is accessible to any foreign nationals or governments.
“Harbin’s controlling stake in GNC was subject to thorough review for any U.S. national security implications by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) in 2018. That transaction was approved, and no facts or circumstances have changed to call the Committee’s support into question.
“We will continue to work with all relevant agencies throughout the restructuring process and maintain our rigorous standards for data privacy in compliance with all applicable law.”