Blackstone mulls £1.5bn takeover of drinks bottler

Ollie Gordon
Refresco Gerber has a contract with Innocent
US PRIVATE equity giant Blackstone Group is considering a £1.5bn takeover bid for Refresco Gerber, Europe’s largest soft drinks bottler, it emerged yesterday.

The US investment specialist is among several interested parties weighing up bids for the Anglo-Dutch company. Blackstone’s private equity rival KKR and CVC Partners are also rumoured to be circling, with bids expected to come in before a pre-Christmas first round deadline.

Partially-owned by UK private equity firm 3i and an Icelandic investor consortium, Refresco Gerber appointed JP Morgan in the summer to advise on the possible sale of the company – which is also thought to be weighing up a flotation. But any decision on a sale or float may not come until March.

South African financier Manfred Gorvy is also a key stakeholder in Refresco Gerber – which was created last year out of a merger between Refresco and Gorvy’s Geber Emig. Gorvy, 69, wants to keep hold of his stake, which is why the company’s management first considered floating on the London Stock Exchange in the summer.

But after declining global markets in September scared investors off the IPO market, it is thought the Refresco Gerber’s management now favour a sale over a listing.

Blackstone, KKR, CVC and Refresco Gerber all declined to comment.

The Rotterdam-based Refresco Gerber has bottling contracts with Innocent Smoothies and Del Monte fruit juices, and produces own-brand drinks for supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco and Waitrose. The company employs 5,000 staff.