Newlat, the Italy-based food manufacturer, is reportedly among a number of parties interested in UK food and drinks group Princes.
Sky News today (28 September) named four financial investors and Newlat as possible suitors weighing up a move for the canned food and shelf-stable drinks business.
Just Food approached Newlat, which owns UK food group Symington’s, for comment but had not received a response at the time of writing.
The report also said financial investors Lone Star Funds, Epiris, Aurelius and One Rock Capital were interested in Princes, which is owned by Japan-based conglomerate Mitsubishi Corp.
A spokesperson for Aurelius told Just Food the investment fund “cannot comment”.
Sky News’ report marked a return of talk about Princes’ future to business headlines.
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In January, financial-markets news publication Debtwire said Mitsubishi had appointed M&A advisers at Houlihan Lokey to handle a sale process.
Approached by Just Food at the time, a spokesperson for Mitsubishi said “no decision” had been made on Princes. Asked if Mitsubishi had hired bankers to oversee a potential sale, the spokesperson declined to comment. Referring to Mitsubishi as a whole, he added: “We are always looking to seek opportunities to grow the company.”
Mitsubishi acquired Liverpool-based Princes in 1989. At that time, Princes focused on the import and distribution of shelf-stable food. The company’s product range now also includes edible oils and beverages.
In the year to 31 March 2022, Princes generated revenue of £1.44bn ($1.76bn), down 8% on the previous 12 months. Princes said it was lapping “an exceptional increase” in revenue booked the year earlier when Covid-19 boosted demand.
Operating profit stood at £37.4m, versus £47.5m the year before. Profit for the year attributable to the owners of the company halved, falling from £34.8m to £17.2m. Princes pointed to lower sales volumes, higher tax expenses and a boost to the previous year’s profits from an asset sale.
Princes has two food factories and three beverage production sites in the UK. The company also has a tomato-processing facility in Italy and a tuna-processing site in Mauritius. During the year to the end of March 2022, the company employed, on average, 6,977 full-time staff.
Among Princes’ assets are shares in Edible Oils, a UK-based supplier of bottled edible oils. Princes co-owns the business through a joint venture with agri-food group ADM. Edible Oils has three production facilities.
Just Food has contacted Princes for comment.
In June, Newlat said it was considering snapping up another business in the UK.
The company disclosed its potential interest in another deal in a stock-exchange filing detailing new investment in its business.
In the filing, Newlat said the deal was part of its efforts to support its “external growth strategy”, which includes M&A.
The company added: “Newlat Food is currently engaged in evaluating various potential acquisitions, including that of a leading UK company with a turnover of over £1bn.”