Private-equity firm Lion Capital has declined to comment on reports it is in talks to sell UK cereal manufacturer Weetabix to China’s Bright Food.

The discussions between Lion Capital, which acquired Weetabix in 2004, and Bright Food, values the cereal maker at around GBP1bn (US$1.61bn), the Financial Times reported this morning (23 April).

The Ready Brek and Alpen cereal maker’s private-equity owner is understood to have been in talks with the Shanghai-based group for several weeks about a possible sale, the FT said, citing “people close to the situation”.

Lion Capital, however, declined to comment on the reports.

The negotiations are said to have started shortly after Lion Capital refinanced the GBP900m debt load of the food company late last year. The refinancing followed the appointment of Giles Turrell as CEO. He replaced Ken Wood who retired after seven years at the helm.

Bright Food has been linked to other Western manufacturers in recent years. Talks to buy United Biscuits in 2010 did not lead to a deal, while the Chinese firm also lost out to General Mills for a stake in French yoghurt maker Yoplait last year. It did, however, buy 75% of Australian food manufacturer and importer Manassen Foods in August. The company could not be reached for comment on the link to Weetabix.

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Weetabix, which was founded in 1932, employs around 2,000 people and exports to more than 80 countries.