Private-equity house Epiris is reportedly weighing up a bid for tinned food and shelf-stable drinks supplier Princes.

Epiris, which counts restaurant operator Big Table (the owner of the Café Rouge chain) among its investments, is said to be keen to join a host of companies interested in acquiring the Mitsubishi Corp.-owned UK food-and-drinks group, according to Sky News.

The news comes despite an offer deadline set by the Japanese conglomerate having reportedly passed on Friday.

Epiris declined to comment when approached by Just Drinks.

A spokesperson for Princes, meanwhile, said: Princes does not respond to market speculation suffice to say that in the normal course of business, we routinely seek to identify growth and investment strategies. No decisions have been taken.”

In January, financial-markets news publication Debtwire reported Mitsubishi had appointed M&A advisers at Houlihan Lokey to sell the Liverpool-based company.

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At the time, Mitsubishi also said it had yet to make a decision on the future of Princes.

Other private-equity firms to have been linked with Princes include Valeo Foods and Aurelius Group.

When contacted by Just Drinks, however, neither party was prepared to comment.

In the year to 31 March 2022, Princes’ revenue fell by 8%, to £1.44bn ($1.75bn). Princes said it was lapping “an exceptional increase” in revenue booked the year earlier when Covid-19 boosted demand.

Operating profit, meanwhile, dropped to £37.4m, from $47.5m the year prior. Of this, profit attributable to the owners of the company halved, falling from GBP34.8m to GBP17.2m.

Justifying the dip, Princes pointed to lower sales volumes, higher tax expenses and a boost to the previous year’s profits from an asset sale.

Mitsubishi acquired Princes in 1989. At the time, the company focused predominantly on the import and distribution of shelf-stable food. The company’s product range now also includes edible oils and beverages.

Also among its assets is an 8% stake in UK fruit-juice business Cawston Press.