(Adds comments from Wilmar, Kerry)
By Martinne Geller and Freya Berry
LONDON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - 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 food.
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 available.
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