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Findus frozen out by bidders

City A.M. Reporter
PRIVATE equity houses Permira and Lion Capital are emerging as front runners for Unilever’s Italian frozen food unit Findus as other bidders question its profitability, sources close to the situation said yesterday.

Permira and Lion, which already run frozen food businesses, both put in offers for the Unilever unit on yesterday’s deadline for first round bids, but other private equity players queried the clarity of the sale details for a business which could fetch €700m ( £600m).

Unilever’s Findus Italy is being touted for sale as making 2009 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), of €88.5m, but sources said this figure did not include overheads of €10-15m, cutting the “real” EBITDA figure.

Other private equity houses BC Partners and PAI Partners are likely to have put in bids along with Charterhouse, but another potential bidder Doughty Hanson has decided not to bid for the business which makes frozen fish and vegetable products, the sources said.