Boost Juice eyes possible IPO

Retail Zoo eyeing trade sale,IPO as private equity owners look to cash in.

Retail Zoo - the company that owns the Boost Juice health drink franchise - is eyeing a trade sale or initial public offer as its private equity owners look to cash in.

The Riverside Company, a US-based private equity firm that owns 70% of the business, and the company's other shareholders, have been working with investment bank UBS on options.

The most likely is a sale of the business in the months ahead. Another option could include a listing on the Australian Securities Exchange.

The company's backers have included high-profile investors such as retail billionaire Marc Besen and his son Daniel. It was founded by Janine Allis in 1998 who remains a major shareholder alongside Riverside.

Boost Juice has less than 0.5% of the $1.7 billion fruit juice manufacturing market -- a market share that is growing, however, according to research house Ibisworld, after the company started selling one-litre and 350-millilitre bottled products in Woolworths (WOW) and Coles.

There are close to 200 Boost Juice bars in Australia, with about a quarter company-owned.

But Retail Zoo has expanded to include other food franchise brands, such as Salsa's Fresh Mex Grill and Cibo Espresso and is said to boast turnover of some $300 million a year. It is likely the business will be pitched at more than 10 times earnings before interest, tax and depreciation, for a total sale in the "several hundreds" of millions.

UBS declined to comment yesterday.

Riverside secured a controlling stake in the business more than three years ago.

The remainder is mostly owned by the founders, but some members of management also have interests.

By the time Riverside started circling Boost in 2009, it had grown to a highly recognisable franchise brand with more than 150 stores and about $100 million in turnover.

The company's chief executive, Scott Meneilly, could not be reached for comment.

The Riverside Company has recently been embarking on other deals, including a foray into New Zealand with the purchase of a controlling stake in Hamilton-based animal drug delivery company Simcro, believed to be worth less than $NZ150m ($132m).

Its other Australian investments include online education company Learning Seat, which it bought from a division of The Australian's parent company News Corporation and Bohemia Interactive Solutions, a games-based training technology for soldiers.

Sources said that a sale of the business by private equity could happen next year.

They said that this might be followed by other retail company owners moving to place their businesses on the market as economic conditions began to improve after a long period of difficult conditions.