In a statement, Nichols, owner of brands such as Vimto and Panda, courted speculation by claiming: “We are monitoring the sale of GSK’s drinks brands with interest but we understand that the process is in its early stage.”
The comment prompted reports from media such as Sky News that Nichols was being encouraged by GSK to team up with investment firms to launch a joint bid for the beverages.
Not entered any dicusssions
FoodManufacture.co.uk understands that Nichols has not entered any discussions with private equity firms to date. But the firm is not denying interest in the potential of such a partnership.
A GSK spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We are not commenting on individual stories that are coming out.”
But he continued: “We are still on track to reach an agreement to sell the two brands by the end of the year.”
Any deal to buy Ribena and Lucozade would carry a heavy price tag and would require significant financial backing.
Private equity groups Blackstone; Lion Capital; Bain Capital; CVC Capital Partners; KKR and Canadian fund Onex are among those also believed to be considering offers.
Reports emerged earlier this month that Irn Bru maker AG Barr was considering a joint £1bn bid with private investors after an attempted merger with Britvic collapsed. Speculation is rife that Japanese giant Suntory may also be plotting a rival bid.
Speculation that GSK was planning to sell off the brands, for an estimated £766M, first arose in March following a strategic review of its business and was confirmed by the company in April.
GSK ceo Andrew Witty said at the time that the company had concluded that the drinks had “tremendous growth potential”, but felt they would be “better leveraged by companies with existing category presence”.