Equistone seals £90m fruit deal

With the investment in Whitworths, Equistone’s €1.5bn Fund IV, closed earlier this year, is now approximately 45% deployed.

Equistone Partners Europe has bought a majority stake in Whitworths, a UK supplier of dried fruit, nut and seed products, from debt provider European Capital, for £90 million (€107 million, $141 million).  

Equistone declined to comment on the debt-equity split. HSBC, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland provided debt financing for the transaction, according to a statement. 

Whitworths, a Northamptonshire-based business established in 1886, has grown through the economic downturn, generating 7 percent growth per annum, as the popularity of healthier food alternatives and home baking continues to increase, Equistone said. In the year to April 2013, the business had total sales of £157.3 million. 

Equistone’s investment will be used to support further development of the product range and to develop further Whitworths’ growing branded proposition, in multiple brands, as well as supporting additional businesses.

Equistone made the investment from its current fund, a 2011-vintage fund that closed earlier this year on its €1.5 billion hard-cap. Following the acquisition of Whitworths, the fund has 14 investments and is understood to be approximately 45 percent deployed. 

It has been a relatively busy summer for Equistone. Last month, it agreed the sale of its investment in Computerlinks Group to Arrow Electronics for €230 million. That same month, it acquired a majority stake in Karl Eugen Fischer, a leading manufacturer of cutting systems for the tyre industry for an undisclosed sum, and it invested in Charles & Alice, a well-known French manufacturer of fruit desserts, for an undisclosed sum. 

In April, Equistone bought Meilleurtaux.com, a leading provider of advice to consumers looking for mortgage solutions and in March Equistone acquired a majority stake in Bretèche Industrie, a supplier of manufacturing and production equipment for the agro-food industry and for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.