Whitworths confirmed it was working with financial restructuring firm Houlihan Lokey to explore “new investment opportunities”.
A Whitworths spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We can confirm that we are currently in a process with Houlihan Lokey that is exploring new investment opportunities. This investment will support our ambitious plans for growth.
“We are actively looking to expand our geographical reach and continue to introduce fresh innovation into the market. We expect this process to continue to develop over the coming months and are not in a position to provide any further information at this stage.”
Unlikely to make a profit
An industry expert told FoodManufacture.co.uk that it was unlikely Whitworths’ owner, private equity firm Equistone, would make a profit on the business.
“Bearing in mind that the past three owners have been Equistone, European Capital and Gresham, there appears to be a lack of trade buyers out there,” the industry expert said. “[But, it’s] not impossible that another private equity buyer will have a go.
“It sold for £90M last time, and £80M the time before, and sales seem to have been flat around the £157M level. So, I would be surprised if Equistone make much of a profit after four years of ownership.”
Both Equistone and Houlihan Lokey declined to comment on the reported sale of Whitworths.
Sale of Whitworths
Whitworths was founded in 1887, and bought by Equistone for £90M in 2013. It makes a variety of dried fruit and nut products, including sultanas, prunes, dried mango and ground almonds. It also owns the children’s brand Sunny, which makes raisins and dried fruit bags.
Last year, Whitworths launched its first superfood snack range, Full of Super. The range is available to buy in Sainsbury.
Whitworths sale – at a glance
- Put up for sale
- Houlihan Lokey to find a buyer
- Industry expert said Equistone unlikely to make a profit on the sale