Innocent Bottler Drinks To £1bn Buyout Deal
The bottling group which works with well-known brands such as Innocent Drinks and Sunny D is preparing to kick off an auction that could value it at well over £1bn.
Sky News understands that shareholders in Refresco Gerber have hired JP Morgan, the investment bank, to oversee a so-called dual-track process that will examine the merits of a sale or stock market flotation.
Investors in the company include 3i, the British-based private equity group, which owns 20%, and an Icelandic consortium which abandoned a previous attempt to sell it during the global financial crisis in 2009.
Sources said on Tuesday that private equity firms such as Blackstone and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts were among the likely bidders for Refresco Gerber.
Both have invested in the sector before, with Blackstone among the bidders last year for GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena brands, which were eventually sold to the Japanese drinks group Suntory.
Refresco Gerber, which is based in Rotterdam, employs nearly 5,000 people including hundreds of UK-based staff.
Its operations across Europe include bottling contracts for brands such as Ocean Spray and Del Monte, and its retail customers, for which it produces own-label juices and other drinks, include Asda, J Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose.
Other shareholders in Refresco Gerber include Hanover Acceptances, an investment company owned by Manfred Gorvy, a South African-born financier. The Financial Times reported last month that he was unlikely to be willing to sell his stake in the company.
A deal valuing Refresco Gerber at more than £1bn including debt would yield a healthy return for 3i, which has improved its performance under Simon Borrows, who was parachuted in as chief executive two years ago.
In total, the company produces about 1.4 billion gallons (6.5 bilion litres) of juice and other drinks annually.
Refrescoe Gerber was formed from a merger last year of Gerber Emig and Refresco with the aim of creating a Continental powerhouse offering customers a full range of logistics services in addition to production and bottling.
A London flotation of the business remains a possibility although some bankers believe a sale is far more likely.
3i and JP Morgan both declined to comment.