STOCKHOLM, May 23 (Reuters) - Norway’s Orkla, Danish brewer Royal Unibrew and private equity firm Nordic Capital have proceeded to the second round of bidding for Heineken’s Finnish division Hartwall, three people familiar with the matter said.
The sources, who put the value of Hartwall at around 500 million euros ($644 million), declined to be identified because the auction process for the maker of Lapin Kulta beer is not public.
Two of the people said an additional private equity firm might also still be in the running.
Royal Unibrew is Denmark’s second-largest brewer after Carlsberg. Like Hartwall, Royal Unibrew has a license agreement with PepsiCo. It is also a licensee in Denmark for Heineken beer and took over distribution of Heineken beer in the Baltic states this year.
Royal Unibrew has a market capitalisation of around 5.8 billion Danish crowns ($1.0 billion). Even though its debt is well below the top level it has set as a target, it would have to finance an acquisition of Hartwall partly by issuing new shares, the people said.
Orkla, a conglomerate specialising in consumer products that is offloading non-core businesses, has a market value about nine times that of Royal Unibrew and deeper pockets. A person close to the process said Orkla had hired Credit Suisse as financial adviser.
“I think it (Hartwall) will end up with Orkla or with private equity,” one of the people said.
Heineken said in February it would review options for Hartwall and that it might sell the unit. Sources told Reuters in April that Heineken and its financial adviser JP Morgan had launched a sale.
Nordic Capital, Orkla, Credit Suisse and JP Morgan declined to comment while Royal Unibrew and Heineken were not immediately available for comment.
($1 = 5.7888 Danish crowns)
$1 = 0.7766 euros Reporting by Sven Nordenstam; Editing by Mark Potter