Duke Street set to make it second time lucky for Burton’s

Duke Street Capital has edged ahead of other trade and financial buyers as it tries for a second time to buy Burton’s Foods, a snack maker valued at about £200 million.

UK buyout firm Duke Street Capital is leading the race to buy Burton’s Foods, a private equity-owned UK snack maker that could be valued at about £200 million (€298 million; $391 million).

Duke Street is through to the final round of bidding for Burton’s, with a final decision expected in the next few days, according to market sources.

It is now favourite to win the auction ahead of Jacob Fruitfield Food Group, an Irish-based trade rival, according to the Times newspaper.

Yesterday Northern Foods, another trade rival reportedly in the running to buy Burton’s, said that it had “been informed that it is no longer in the auction process”.

The auction is Duke Street’s second attempt to buy the business, after narrowly missing out when it was last on the market in 2000. US buyout group HM Capital, formerly known as Hicks Muse, won that auction, paying Associated British Foods £130 million for the company.

Burton’s is the maker of Wagon Wheels and Jammie Dodgers, two well-known snack brands in the UK, and also makes products for Cadbury’s and Maryland Cookies. The company, which reported profits of £4 million on revenues of £287 million in 2005, was put up for sale by HM Capital in November last year.

The snack foods sector is proving popular with private equity firms. Last year The Blackstone Group teamed up with French buyout firm PAI Partners to buy United Biscuits for £1.6 billion, while consumer goods specialists Lion Capital bought potato crisp maker Kettle Foods.