A consortium of two private-equity firms has emerged as the lead bidder for the majority of Hostess Brands‘ cake business, including the Twinkies brand.

Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos submitted a US$410m offer for the Hostess and Dolly Madison businesses. The bid represents a base-line offer and the units remain subject to a competitive bidding process.

Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn said interest in the iconic brands had been “intense” and “competitive”. He hinted the group expects the sale price to be pushed higher at auction. “We expect that to continue through a robust, court-authorised auction process. The ultimate goal will be the same we have had since we began marketing all of our assets – to maximise value for all of the company’s stakeholders and ensure these great products can be enjoyed by their loyal fans for many years to come.”

Analysts had suggested Bimbo Bakeries, the US arm of Grupo Bimbo, would likely be targeting Hostess cake brands.

Earlier this month, Hostess reached a stalking horse agreement with US baker Flowers Foods for its bread brands. Flowers offered $390m for the products, including the Wonder, Butternut, Home Pride and Nature’s Pride brands. The auction for these brands will be held next month (28 February).

Meanwhile, last week Hostess named McKee Foods and United States Bakery as the stalking horse bidders for its Drake’s cake business and various bread brands, for a combined purchase price of $56.5m.

Hostess is in the process of liquidating its business and selling off its assets and brands. The company received court approval to wind down its operations in November last year after a national strike hit the already ailing company.