French in box seat for Peters

IPO for ice cream company now unlikely after bid from France's R&R.

In the latest twist surrounding the sale of ice cream company Peters, it now seems the odds have swung back towards the company ending up in the hands of a trade buyer, likely to be French-owned company R&R, sources said last night.

Evidence had started mounting earlier in the week that private equity owner Pacific Equity Partners was leaning more towards an initial public offering for the company.

That was based on PEP’s decision to draft in Macquarie Capital to work with Morgan Stanley.

Morgan Stanley analysts estimate the company to be valued at between 12 and 13.5 times forecasted earnings before interest and tax for the financial 2015, which investors have described as pricey for a company that sells 60 per cent of its products to supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths.

It is understood Macquarie was holding a meeting with fund managers on Peters tomorrow, while Morgan Stanley met with investors in Melbourne yesterday. Dairy company Murray Goulburn has also been sizing up Peters. Peters management was running a site tour of the Mulgrave plant on Tuesday.

Sources close to the company have maintained Peters had always been subject to a dual-track process and no decision on an IPO had yet been decided.

It is understood R&R was one of the companies competing with PEP when it purchased the business from Nestle for $250 million in 2012.

R & R’s brands include Rowntree’s sweets, Skinny Cow ice cream and Kelly’s Cornish ice cream.