Permira eyes Findus Italy

PRIVATE equity house Permira is poised to make a takeover bid for Unilever’s Italian frozen food business Findus Italy.

Unilever is expected to formally announce the sale of Findus towards mid-April, with Permira looking at making a bid for the Italian business, which is currently priced between €500m-€800m (£444m-£710m).

Permira, which bought frozen food brands Birds Eye and Iglo from Unilever for €1.7bn (£1.5bn) in 2006, is understood to have already instructed advisers on the potential bid.

Birds Eye Iglo is said to be the favoured bidder.

Meanwhile, it is understood that private equity rival Lion Capital is also putting together a bid for Findus Italy and has also instructed advisers ahead of the sale.

Lion Capital bought the Findus Group from CapVest for £1.1bn two years ago, while the Italian arm remained in the hands of Unilever.

Findus Italy remains as the only European frozen foods business owned by Unilever after it sold off Birds Eye and Iglo.

At the time, former chief executive Patrick Cescau held back from shedding the Italian business because he wanted to integrate it into Unilever’s Italian ice cream business, which includes Cornetto, Viennetta and Solero.
Since taking over the helm in 2008, current chief Paul Polman has moved to sell off the business. He has been keen to build Unilever’s portfolio and focus on driving volume growth rather than cost-cutting.

Unilever, which is understood to have turned to Goldman Sachs for financial advice, was not available for comment.