Premier Foods makes shrewd UB offer

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Premier foods

The UK's Premier Foods is believed to have offered United Biscuits
an initial £1bn bid for its northern European snack food operations
- even though City analysts claim the business is worth £2.3bn.

Premier Foods, known for Branston pickle and Bird's custard, made the bid to pick up UB's British snack brands over the weekend, clubbing together with Dutch private equity firms Lion Capital and NPM Capital to push for a sale.

If UB agrees the offer, Premier looks likely to take control of leading brands Pengiun biscuits, Jaffa Cakes and KP Nuts, leaving Lion Capital with Hula Hoops and McCoys crisps and NPM with UB's northern European brands.

However, according to reports in the Sunday Times​ newspaper, Premier and Lion Capital, which are being advised by NM Rothschild, have made an offer thought to be well below the £2.3bn (€3.35bn) price tag predicted by analysts.

This may leave the floor open to other bidders interested in UB's northern European operations, which are understood to include Blackstone and TDR Capital.

Earlier this year UB, currently Britain's leading biscuit manufacturer, asked Goldman Sachs to perform a strategic review of the company in a bid to streamline the firm and focus on key markets and consumer trends.

Following the review UB sold its southern European biscuit business to Kraft for £575m.

Through the acquisition Kraft, maker of Dairy Lee cheese and Ritz crackers, now owns seven of the top 10 selling biscuit brands in Spain and holds a 39 per cent share of the Portugese biscuit market with the Truinfo brand.

Meanwhile Premier has been on the grab for some time. Last week the firm announced the purchase of Campbell's UK and Irish businesses for £450m - marking the firm's sixth acquisition in under four years.

The British food manufacturer will acquire Campbells category-leading brands including Oxo, Batchelors, Homepride and Fray Bentos, taking Premier's total branded sales mix to 69 per cent.

Since 2002, Premier has acquired Nestle and Unilever's British ambient food businesses, Kraft's UK desserts business, Gedney's fresh vegetable supplier and more recently meat-free convenience brands Quorn and Cauldron Foods.

Earlier this month Premier Foods said it expects to deliver strong half-year profits as sales of household names Branston and Ambrosia perk up, and the newly acquired Quorn brand enjoys a double-digit rise in demand.

In a trading statement for the six months to 1 July, the food group said it expects like-for-like sales growth to be in line with expectations, supported by the strong performance of several key brands.

Overall, Premier Foods reported a 2005 group turnover of £789.7m, up six per cent from 2004's £744.7m.

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