Del Monte Foods has confirmed that it has been sold to consortium of three private-equity groups in a deal worth US$5.3bn.

After a day of speculation, the US food group finally announced that an investor group led by funds affiliated with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), Vestar Capital Partners and Centerview Partners would acquire the business for $19.00 per share in cash.

The transaction, which was unanimously approved by Del Monte's board of directors, is valued at approximately $5.3bn, including the assumption of around $1.3bn net debt.

The price represents a premium of around 40% over Del Monte's average closing share price during the past three months prior to 18 November, when market rumours of a transaction began - and is also higher than any price the company's stock has ever achieved.

"This transaction delivers substantial shareholder value and is a clear endorsement of Del Monte's strategic success and effective execution. The hard work and dedication of our talented team has helped to transform Del Monte from a $1bn consumer foods business into a branded pet and consumer products company with more than $3.7bn in revenues," said Del Monte chairman and CEO Rick Wolford said. "This transaction will enable our company to continue to successfully grow, building on the foundation our team has put into place. We are excited about the ability to deliver substantial returns to our shareholders, as well as great prospects for Del Monte employees, customers and consumers."

KKR has owned Del Monte in the past. The private-equity firm took on the business when it bought RJR Nabisco for $25.1bn in 1989 and then sold on the Del Monte canned foods business to a consortium led by Merrill Lynch.

Simon Brown, a member of KKR and head of the firm's North American consumer practice, said had a "first-rate brand portfolio".

Brown added: "We look forward to working with the company's talented employees and investing in the business as we continue to execute upon Del Monte's proven strategy for growth. Del Monte is a great company, with an excellent strategy, a talented team and a strong future."

Del Monte said it plans to maintain a corporate presence in San Francisco, where its corporate HQ would remain, and in Pittsburgh.