Bidders emerge for Nestle Brands

A number of private equity firms are joining the bidding to buy several non-core food brands from Nestle.

Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, Doughty Hanson and Electra Partners Europe are among a group of bidders believed to be interested in acquiring several non-core assets from Nestle, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

The assets, which include Branston Pickle, Gale's honey, Sun-Pat peanut butter and other brands, are expected to sell for around £100m. Hicks Muse and Doughty Hanson own Hillsdown and Rank Hovis McDougall respectively. If successful, both companies intend to merge the acquired assets with their current food interests.

Nestle, which is being organised by the investment bank UBS Warburg, is looking to conclude the sale as soon as possible. This puts private equity firms such as Hicks Muse and Doughty Hanson at an advantage to a traditional trade buyer because they have faster access to cash.

Hicks Muse recently closed a $1.6bn global buyout fund and is also looking to invest the remaining capital of a E1.5bn European fund which it closed in 2000. Doughty Hanson acquired Rank Hovis McDougall for £1.1bn in 1999. The funds for the deal came from Doughty Hanson’s $2.5bn, launched in 1997.