One of China’s largest food companies has bought a controlling stake in Weetabix in a deal that valued the Northamptonshire-based company at £1.2bn.

Bright Food Group bought 60% of the share capital of Weetabix Food Company, while the cereal maker’s private equity owner, Lion Capital, has retained the remaining 40%.

The deal, subject to regulatory approval, will be the largest overseas acquisition by a Chinese company in the food and drink sector and could pave the way for an expansion of well-known Weetabix products into Asian markets, a statement said.

Weetabix already exports cereal-based foods to more than 80 countries, but prides itself in sourcing all of its wheat from farms within 50 miles of its mills.

“With its best in class production standards and excellent track record for innovation, the business is poised to achieve strong and sustainable long-term revenue and profit growth,” Zongnan Wang, chairman of Bright Food, said.

“We are excited by the many growth opportunities for the business, especially in international markets, and Asia in particular. With Bright Food’s strong resources and our expertise in both the Chinese and broader international markets, we are excellently placed to develop the Weetabix business.

“We value the expertise of Weetabix’s management and employees and look forward to collaborating with them and Lion Capital to realise the full global potential of the Weetabix family of brands,” he added.