UPDATE 1-China's Bright Food in talks to buy Israeli food group Tnuva
By Adam Jourdan and David Lin
SHANGHAI, Sept 3 (Reuters) - China's Bright Food (Group) Co Ltd is in talks on the possible acquisition of Tnuva, Israel's biggest food manufacturer and distributor, in a deal one newspaper said could be worth around $1.6 billion.
"This has really just got going and the two sides are in the process of talking and understanding one another," Bright Food spokesman Pan Jianjun said.
British private equity firm Apax Partners holds a 56 percent stake in dairy-focused Tnuva, which markets milk and dairy products, eggs, fish, chicken and frozen vegetables.
Israeli investment company Mivtach Shamir owns another 20.7 percent of the company, while a group of kibbutzim - agricultural communities - hold 23.3 percent.
When Apax and Mivtach Shamir acquired control of Tnuva in 2008, the deal valued the company at $989 million. The latest potential deal could be worth around 10 billion yuan ($1.63 billion), a Chinese paper said.
A spokeswoman for Apax in Tel Aviv said: "At the moment, we are not commenting."
Tnuva said in a statement Apax attracts approaches from time to time from companies seeking to buy a stake in the company, whose products account for more than 14 percent of shelf space in Israeli supermarkets, Apax estimates.
"Apax studies these approaches, those that are relevant, but as of now, none of them ... has led to negotiations," the statement said.
Bright Food has acquired several foreign firms over the last few years - including New Zealand's Synlait Milk Ltd, Australia's Manassen Foods and France's Diva - in a bid to expand its global reach.
The Chinese firm also owns 60 percent of British cereal maker Weetabix Food, which it acquired for 1.2 billion pounds in one of the biggest foreign purchases by a Chinese food group.
Bright Food has said it expects international sales to account for 25 percent of revenue by 2015, up from 15 percent.
Bright Food Group has several listed subsidiaries including Bright Dairy & Food Co Ltd and Shanghai Jinfeng Wine Co Ltd.
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