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September 5, 2019

PE firm Qualium in “talks” on Biscuit International

The owner of Biscuit International, the European biscuits supplier, is holding talks over the business, which has been linked to a possible merger with a peer in the UK.

By Dean Best

Qualium Investissement is in talks over Biscuit International, the European supplier in which the French private-equity house holds a majority stake, a source close to the situation has confirmed.

Earlier this week, Sky News reported Qualium was in discussions about Biscuit International with UK-based private-equity firm Towerbrook Capital, which the UK broadcaster said wants to buy the business.

Sky News, citing City sources, reported Towerbrook is drawing up plans to merge Biscuit International with Fox’s Biscuits, the UK-based supplier owned by local food major Boparan Holdings, also home to 2 Sisters Food Group.

A source close to the situation has told just-food talks are taking place on Biscuit International but stopped short of providing detail on the nature of the discussions and would not comment further.

“We can confirm that Qualium is in talks regarding its portfolio company Biscuit International but cannot comment on any details of these talks,” the source said.

Qualium has declined to comment, while Towerbrook has not returned a request for comment. Boparan Holdings told just-food on Tuesday (3 September): “We never publicly comment on market rumour and speculation.”

Qualium became the majority shareholder in the then French biscuit maker Biscuit Poult in 2014.

In 2016, Poult embarked on what has become a series of acquisitions, including snapping up Dutch counterpart Banketgroep and German supplier A&W. In December that year, French fund CM-CIC Investissements also became an investor in Poult, saying it wanted “to support the creation of Europe’s leading private-label biscuit producer”.

In May 2018, the renamed Biscuit International acquired the UK’s Northumbrian Fine Foods, a manufacturer of gluten- and milk-free biscuits, from CriSeren Foods for an undisclosed amount.

Two months later, the group bought Spanish peer Arluy, adding Spain to its roster of European markets. Biscuit International describes itself as “the leading European manufacturer of private-label sweet biscuits”, with 14 factories, turnover of EUR400m (US$437.6m) and staff of 1,500.

The ownership of Fox’s Biscuits has been the subject of speculation for a number of years. Boparan acquired Fox’s as part of its takeover of Northern Foods in 2011. In 2014, reports emerged linking another UK manufacturer, Burton’s Biscuit Co., with interest in Fox’s.

In January 2017, Boparan went public, revealing there had been “a preliminary approach” for Fox’s but no deal emerged. By the autumn of that year, Sky News reported Fox’s and Burton’s had revisited talks to merge.

Boparan has offloaded a series of assets in recent quarters, including selling pizza assets to Nomad Foods and its red-meat operations to Ireland’s Kepak Group.

On Monday, Burton’s did announce an acquisition, revealing it had purchased Scotland-based shortbread and chutney maker Paterson Arran for an undisclosed sum.

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