French food industry holdings group Financière Turenne Lafayette said it has received “several expressions of interest from important players in the agrifood sector”, after a pool of banks led by Rothschild began searching for a new owner for the embattled business.

The announcement came as FTL, the owner of brands including William Saurin ready meals and Madrange meats, confirmed the Commercial Court of Paris had approved a memorandum of understanding between the group and 17 lending banks for a EUR66m (US$70.6m) refinancing package that gives the group time to find new investors.

The group said its objective is now to find “one or more new shareholders” capable of providing long-term financing for the group and “to mobilise the investments necessary for their development”. This “will be the priority of the coming months”, FTL said.

The company insisted in spite of its “difficult economic situation” it has “important assets, strong brands, good industrial tools, recognised know-how and a unique positioning in its markets”.

A trust fund in which the funds will be deposited was set up on 25 January, FTL said. The fund will comprise EUR53.35m from the banks and EUR12.65m from the French state.

FTL said in a statement on 27 January “thanks to this refinancing… the group has the means and the time required to continue operating its companies and engage in the search for new investors”. “FTL thanks its partners, banks and public, for their contribution and determination to create the conditions for its rescue. Management remains committed to maintaining the support of its suppliers, together with credit insurers, and its customers, who demonstrate their willingness to continue to play their role as partners of the group and its companies,” FTL said.

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Meanwhile, following the provisional findings of an audit of FTL that revealed “a misrepresentation of the group’s accounts over several years”, the group said once the audit is completed, managers will present a “detailed roadmap” to staff representatives about measures it intends to implement in the coming months. 

The audit sent alarm bells ringing over the future of the group, which operates 21 production plants and employs 3,200 staff. Before Christmas, FTL obtained emergency financial aid of close to EUR70m from several banks and the French state.