The meeting for Del Monte Foods shareholders to vote on the company’s planned US$5bn sale to a group of private-equity investors will be delayed.

A group of private-equity firms, led by buyout giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, has tabled an offer for Del Monte totalling $4bn in cash and the assumption of $1.3bn in debt.

Del Monte shareholders had been set to vote on the proposal today (15 February). However, the meeting is now expected to take place on 7 March, Del Monte revealed yesterday.

The news follows a Delaware court ruling on an injunction to block the vote, which has been brought by a group of stockholders challenging the deal.

The stockholders have claimed that the proposed acquisition is the result of secret talks between the private-equity investors and Del Monte financial advisor Barclays Capital, with the latter standing to gain $50m in fees by representing both the company and the buyers in the transaction.

“Del Monte Foods Company… will adjourn its previously scheduled February 15th shareholder meeting to vote on the acquisition by funds affiliated with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Vestar Capital Partners and Centerview Capital until March 7, 2011, as required by the Delaware Chancery Court,” the company said in a statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission.