Oaktree Capital Management , the private equity group who recently made a bid for Richmond Foods , has come forward as Smithfield Foods ‘ partner in the acquisition of Sara Lee’s European meats business.

Smithfield announced that it had entered into exclusive negotiations with Sara Lee on 5 May. At the time, Smithfield said it planned to fund the acquisition through a joint venture with an unnamed private equity group. 

“This is an opportunity to partner with one of the world’s leading meat producers to acquire a strong European food platform,” said Caleb Kramer, Oaktree MD. “We are attracted to the company’s leading brands, innovative products and strong customer relationships. We look forward to working with Smithfield Foods to leverage the existing strengths of the company and grow the business”.

If negotiations are successfully completed, Smithfield and Oaktree plan to create a new operating company on a stand-alone, non-recourse basis.

Sara Lee’s European meats business is a US$1.1bn operation with market leading positions in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Portugal. The company also has a presence in the UK, Germany and Italy.