(Adds comments from Wilmar, Kerry)
By Martinne Geller and Freya Berry
LONDON, Sept 29 The owners of Quorn, a line of
meat-free packaged foods, is facing takeover interest from a
range of parties from Asia, Europe and North America, as they
look to cash in on the world's growing appetite for healthier
Monde Nissin from the Philippines and Wilmar International
from Singapore are among the parties to have shown an
interest, according to sources familiar with the matter.
An auction for Quorn, which is owned by Exponent Private
Equity, kicked off earlier this month with detailed information
sent to a range of potential bidders, said the sources, who
declined to be identified.
French yogurt company Danone and Canadian French
fries company McCain are also looking at the business, said one
of the sources, as well as Ireland's Kerry Group.
First-round bids are due in mid-October, but a pre-emptive
deal -- in the range of about 500 million pounds ($759 million)
-- could be announced as soon as this week, one source said.
Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil processor which also
sells consumer brands in sugar and sweeteners in Australia, said
it did not make a preemptive bid. Exponent, based in London,
Danone and Kerry declined to comment. Monde Nissin did not
respond to requests for comment. McCain was not immediately
Quorn is a mycoprotein meat substitute, made by fermenting a
type of fungus. It is sold on its own, in ready-meals or in
products that replicate burgers, sausages or chicken fillets.
The brand capitalises on consumers' growing health
consciousness and desire to eat less meat.
The deal would be the latest in a string of transactions for
foods seen as healthier, such as General Mills' $820
million purchase of organic macaroni-and-cheese maker Annie's,
Mondelez International's deal for Enjoy Life Foods,
which makes allergy-friendly foods and Hershey Co's buy
of Krave Pure Foods, which makes lower-calorie meat jerky.
Philippines-based biscuit and noodle maker Monde Nissin,
which is planning an IPO as early as 2016, wants to grow outside
its traditional businesses. Earlier this year, it bought
Australia's Black Swan, a brand of chilled dips, and Nudie,
which sells premium juices. Monde has ambitions to do larger
deals and emerge as a "health and wellness company," according
to one person familiar with the company.
Others that have been named as possible suitors for Quorn
include Nomad Foods, which recently bought the maker of
Birds Eye vegetables, and WhiteWave Foods, which
recently announced a deal for a maker of plant-based powdered
shakes and snacks.
($1 = 0.6587 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Denny Thomas in Hong Kong, Neil Jerome
Morales in Manila and Rujun Shen in Singapore; editing by Adrian
Croft and David Evans)