European Buyout Group Wins Unilever Frozen Food Business

28 August 2006

LONDON: Permira Group, a leading European private equity firm, has won the auction for Unilever's Birds Eye and Iglo brands. Its bid was reportedly just over £1 billion ($1.89bn; €1.48bn).

As ever with private equity companies, Permira's interest in its new acqusition is strictly short term.

An insider says its motive is to combine the former Unilever businesses with FoodVest, a holding company owned by fellow PE group CapVest. FoodVest comprises Findus frozen foods in Norway, Sweden and France. Also Young's Bluecrest Seafood in Britain.

Should such a merger come to pass it would create a European frozen foods business worth over £2bn.

According to the loquacious mole: "It is possible [Permira] will do back-to-back deals. They bought the Unilever business because they want to play a role consolidating the sector."

Such an enlarged business would be a prime IPO prospect within three to four years.

Meantime, Bird Eye's 3,500-strong workforce will be wondering about the security of their jobs as the moneymen plan for their forthcoming cash bonanza.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff