Clive Black, head of research at Shore Capital stockbrokers, confirmed to FoodManufacture.co.uk that aside from these firms, food industry suspects could include Mondelēz International, United Biscuits, Bright Food, Campbell Soup, Raisio and Kellogg.
Chinese food group Bright Food bought a controlling share in Weetabix last year because it was looking for ways to introduce beloved UK brands to Chinese consumers.
Another overseas company Mondelēz (then known as Kraft Foods) acquired longstanding UK brand Cadbury in 2010 and Burton’s currently makes Cadbury-branded biscuits under licence from Mondelēz, so the links here are strong.
United Biscuits is the only UK biscuit brand bigger than Burton’s, so would also be one of the best-placed food manufacturers to consider a deal.
But recent press speculation suggested United Biscuits might itself be put on the market and, in any case, there might be too much overlap with Burton’s for a full-scale acquisition.
On the question of whether Ranjit Boparan might be interested in acquiring Burton’s, which makes brands such as Jammie Dodgers, Wagon Wheels and Maryland cookies, 2 Sisters Food Group said it did not comment on rumour and speculation.
Private equity (PE) houses rather than national or international food trade buyers would be interested too, said Black.
“A question will revolve around whether or not there are any financial (PE) buyers interested too … The financial buyer tends to need an exit, but we’re sure a lot of them will cast an eye over the opportunity and the balance sheet.
“Given the nature of Burton’s there may be more return from companies with UK operations … By nature, I mean Burton’s is a largely UK business and so the greatest prize from synergies is likely to come from an amalgamation with a company with material UK operations.”
That said, Burton’s is known to have recently expanded sales internationally in areas such as Russia.
‘Private equity awash with money’
Commenting on the sale of Tyrrells Crisps for £100M to Investcorp, Julian Wild, partner and food industry mergers and acquisitions specialist at law firm Rollits acknowledged earlier this month: “Private equity is awash with money.”
Burton’s Biscuits owners Apollo Global Management and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce secured the services of Credit Suisse in March to explore the possibilities of putting Burton’s on the market.
Apollo still retains interests in the global biscuits market in the form of US-based Hostess, which makes brands such as Twinkies, which it announced its purchase of in March.
Apollo has declined to comment on the Burton’s Biscuits sale, as has Credit Suisse.