United Biscuits quiet on stock market float rumours

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

United Biscuits quiet on stock-float rumours
United Biscuits quiet on stock-float rumours

Related tags United biscuits Stock market Initial public offering Stock exchange

United Biscuits’ joint-owners PAI Partners and Blackstone have neither denied nor confirmed rumours they are preparing to float the biscuit heavyweight on the stock market, despite analysts welcoming the idea.

But the joint-owners were considering a floatation or sale of the business, said to be worth £1.5bn, according to reports in the Sunday press (July 20).

“We’re declining to comment on this,” ​a spokesman for PAI Partners told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

While a Blackstone spokesman simply said: “It’s a no comment from us.”

But three leading analysts, contacted by FoodManufacture.co.uk, welcomed the prospect of a potential float.

‘Resolve long-term ownership issues’

Floating the company on the stock market would probably help resolve any long-term issues about ownership, as private equity is never viewed as long-term ​[by] owners,” ​said Nicola Mallard, Investec analyst.

“In the food arena, we tend to see more M&A ​[mergers and acquisitions] activity than initial public offerings, as M&A can help to remove excess capacity, build brand portfolios and diversify customer bases or geographies.”

If speculation was true and United Biscuits were to be floated on the stock market, then it meant “there were no trade buyers”, ​she added.

Julian Wild, head of the food team at Rollits solicitors, believed Blackstone and PAI Partners had been waiting for the right time to sell or float United Biscuits, as they had owned the business for some time.

‘Valuation would be significant’

“The market conditions for a float are benign, so timing is good and it’s a substantial business, so the valuation would be significant,” ​said Wild.

If the business were to fall from private ownership and into public, it would be a well-managed transition, according to Clive Black, analyst at Shore Capital.

“Moving from the private to public domain does not make a huge difference for such businesses, as we should expect them to be professionally operated at a level akin to a major listed group,”​ he told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

“What changes with an initial public offering is the public profile and disclosure requirements.”

If a transition from private ownership was effective, PAI Partners and Blackstone would benefit financially, while United Biscuits would experience development, he added.

Separately, press reports that Birds Eye owner Permira was also up for sale were dismissed by a company insider.

“It’s all rumour and there is no truth in it – it’s just seasonal sensation,” ​the source, who did not want to be named, told Foodmanufacture.co.uk.

Meanwhile, United Biscuits md Jon Eggleton recently told FoodManufacture.co.uk the company was ready to grow its savoury​ biscuit retail sales value by 20%.

Eggleton was challenging a previous announcement​ made by competitor Burton’s Biscuits Company, which was also planning to storm the savoury biscuit category.

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