AXA eyes €1bn food group exit

The French firm is considering a sale of Diana Ingredients, which it bought from Cognetas in 2007 for €710m.

AXA Private Equity, the Paris-based buyout group, is looking to sell French food maker Diana Ingredients. 

The company, which AXA bought in 2007 for €710 million, is now valued at more than €1 billion, a source close to the matters told Private Equity International

The firm declined to comment on a potential sale, on which the source said no decision had yet been made. But it is understood that potential bidders could include trade buyers as well as financial sponsors. 

Diana makes natural
ingredients for food
and pharmaceuticals

Founded in 1990, Diana makes natural ingredients such as dried fruits used in breakfast cereals, vegetables used in soups and culinary preparations, as well as meat and wine extracts for stocks and sauces. It also produces ingredients used in pet food and pharmaceuticals. Based in Vannes, Brittany, it counts more than 1,500 staff and generated sales of €392 million in 2011. 

AXA acquired the company from Cognetas, before the ailing GP rebranded to Motion Private Equity last year. Motion still owns a stake in Diana.

Although already a sizeable asset when AXA invested in the business, Diana has since then gone through an ambitious buy-and-build strategy. The company has bought four businesses since June 2012, including Givaudan’s vegetables, wine and vinegar extracts last November. Other bolt-on acquisitions have included US food maker Pacific Pure Aid and French mushroom extracts supplier Arômes de Chacé. 

An exit from Diana would bring significant realisations to AXA, at a time when the firm is on the road to raise its latest vehicle. It would come after a number of other sales concluded by the group this year, including its exits from French commercial vehicles maker Aixam Mega and Italian hydraulic systems supplier Duplomatic Group last month. 

AXA’s Fund V, which has a target of €2 billion, held a first close in March on €1.1 billion.