Horsemeat Scandal Firm Findus Plots Payout
One of the companies at the centre of last year's horsemeat scandal is plotting a financial restructuring that will lead to a multimillion-pound payout for its owners.
Sky News has learnt that Findus is planning to launch a bond worth up to £200m in the coming weeks to take advantage of attractive financing markets.
People close to the company insisted that the restructuring was not designed to pay a dividend but conceded that because the shareholders also own some of Findus' debts, the refinancing would lead to a lucrative windfall.
The refinancing, which is likely to be handled by bankers at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, will focus on replacing about £200m of expensive mezzanine debt owed by Findus.
It is understood to be the first significant payout that Findus's shareholders have been in line to receive from the company since it was engulfed in crisis over the mis-labelling of ready-meal products last year.
A previous bond issue last summer did not result in a shareholder dividend, the company said at the time.
The frozen food group is majority-owned by JP Morgan and Highbridge Capital, a hedge fund, while Lion Capital, a private equity firm, owns a minority shareholding.
Their plans for a financial restructuring follows a move by the owner of rival Iglo Birds Eye to amend the terms of its borrowing agreements.
Findus' future in the UK looked in jeopardy last year when the discovery that some of its beef products were actually 100% horsemeat led to them being removed from sale.
The list of companies embroiled in the controversy eventually included Asda and Tesco.
Findus' UK sales are understood to have† recovered since then, with meat-based ready meals accounting for only 1% of its turnover.
The company, which operates internationally, had annual sales of last year of about £1.1bn and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of roughly £90m.
Findus declined to comment on Tuesday.
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