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MW Brands produces several tuna brands apart from John West tuna(Photo: MW Brands/ FIS)

Food groups, private equity go after seafood company

Click on the flag for more information about United Kingdom UNITED KINGDOM
Friday, June 04, 2010, 03:50 (GMT + 9)

Paris-based global canned seafood business MW Brands has received offers from several strategic bidders and private equity firms, people familiar with the matter informed on Wednesday.

Buyout firms Permira, BC Partners and the Blackstone Group LP, plus European food and consumer goods company Bolton Group, South Korean seafood firm DongWon Fisheries Co Ltd (DWF) and Thai Union Frozen Products (TUF), the world's third-largest canned seafood maker, are also analysing the company’s financial information in detail.

MW Brands could be sold in a secondary buyout or could also consider a business recapitalisation, Reuters reports.

MW Brands is owned by New York-based Trilantic Partners, formerly the private equity arm of the now defunct Lehman Brothers. It purchased MW Brands from HJ Heinz (HNZ) in 2006 for EUR 425 million.

That acquisition was supported by a EUR 315 million loan financing assembled by bookrunner Rabobank and included a EUR 42.9 million mezzanine plant, according to Thomson Reuters LPC.

Trilantic has taken on advisers to conduct a strategic review of the company; an auction is now in its second round. A final bids deadline will be set in late June, although the company hasn't discounted a Paris IPO.

Enterprise value for the MW Brands, including debt, is estimated at between EUR 650 million and EUR 700 million.

MW Brands owns the Petit Navire, Hyacinthe Parmentier and Mareblue tuna brands apart from John West tuna. MW Brands was founded in 2006 when HJ Heinz sold its European Seafood Business.

MW Brands sells its products mainly in the UK, France, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands. It focuses on tuna and added value tuna, and also sells an inclusive range of salmon, mackerel, sardines, seafood spreads and other seafood products.

Meanwhile, private equity groups across the board are bidding for food groups for the resiliency during harsh financial conditions. PAI, BC Partners, Doughty Hanson and Charterhouse may join Permira and Lion Capital – owners of Birds Eye Iglo and Findus Group, respectively -- when the first bids come for consumer goods group Unilever's Findus Italy for a venture value of some EUR 700 million, reports Financial Times.

Because Nestlé has a frozen food business in Italy with a 15 per cent market share, the company would be an obvious strategic buyer of Findus Italy.

Permira is in talks to buy Panrico, which Apax Partners purchased for EUR 900 million in 2005 but was hit by Spain’s recession.

Goldman Sachs is now leading the auction for Findus Italy. The former has attached staple financing to the information memorandum and offered financing to increase interest.

Findus Group, bought by Lion Capital in 2008 for GBP 1.1 billion (EUR 1.3 billion), is also considering purchasing Findus Italy, as well as Birds Eye Iglo.

Findus Italy may be valued at between eight and 10 times its EUR 65 million-EUR 75 million of annual EBITDA.

Related articles:

- Unilever seeks buyer for Italian subsidiary
Unilever may unload frozen food business

By Natalia Real
[email protected]


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