US private equity firms Blackstone and JPMorgan Partners have reportedly joined forces to launch a rival bid for Unilever's European frozen food businesses, valued at approximately GBP1bn (US$1.84bn).

In February, Unilever announced its intention to sell its European frozen food businesses, including the Birds Eye and Igloo brands, with the aim of returning its European operations to an acceptable level of profitability.

According to The Business, with JPMorgan/Blackstone rivals CapVest linking up with KKR and CVC Capital, the auction looks to be hotly contested.

This is the second time this year that JPMorgan and Blackstone have worked together in competition with CapVest in the consumer goods market. In January CapVest came through to buy Findus from EQT for GBP450m.

Neither JPMorgan or Blackstone were available for comment, while a Unilever spokesperson said that the company was unwilling to comment on speculation and rumour, but added that the sale was progressing as planned.

US investment bank Goldman Sachs is handling the sale.