Private equity rumour stalks Britvic

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Private equity Kohlberg kravis roberts Food and drink

French private equity group PAI Partners is reported to be weighing
up a bid for Britvic, as private equity rumours again stalk
Europe's food and drink sector.

PAI is thought to have examined a possible offer for Britvic, although no formal approach has been made, according to a report in Monday's Financial Times​ newspaper.

It is not the first time private equity is understood to have been sniffing round Britvic, which makes Robinsons and Tango drinks, and has the UK rights to PepsiCo's Pepsi, 7UP and Gatorade drinks. US group KKR was last year rumoured to be considering an offer.

Rumours of PAI's interest surfaced after Britvic announced on Thursday that falling fizzy drink sales in Britain had sent its first half profits down by nearly a third, to £6.5m.

Britvic's shares plummeted at the start of March from more than 275p to around 205p, following the group's warning that a weaker-than-expected carbonated drinks market would hit profits.

A slight recovery was dashed by Thursday's results statement. Shares fell to 203.75p by Friday night, their lowest point since Britvic's flotation at 230p per share late last year.

It is the group's jittery last few months that is thought to have roused interest from PAI.

The private equity group has a track record in food, having last year paid €1.1bn for Chr Hansen's natural food ingredients division.

Private equity firms have made a number of high profile signings in the food industry over the last couple of years, suggesting there is a considerable war chest to be spent.

Five private equity-backed food deals broke the €100m barrier in 2004, with the Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst bid for cereals maker Weetabix topping the charts at €915m.

The size of deals continued to rise in 2005. PAI's move for Chr Hansen was beaten in November by UK-based Lion Capital and US-based Blackstone, who joined together to pay £1.2bn (€1.85bn) for Cadbury Schweppes' European Beverages arm, including the Orangina and Schweppes brands.

These two deals alone were worth more than the total private equity investment in Europe's food sector in 2004.

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