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Peters Ice Cream set to be sold to French company

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 23/05/2014 Sarah Thompson, Anthony Macdonald and Gretchen Friemann
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The private equity owners of Peters Ice Cream have entered into exclusive negotiations with French ice-cream giant, R&R, as first revealed by The Australian Financial Review.

The iconic brand is expected to sell for over $400 million, in a move that appears to spell the end of alternative plans for a sharemarket debut.

The sale price equates to a valuation of about eight times next year's forecast earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

Despite a recent ramp up in preparations for a float of Peters Ice Cream, a listing now looks a remote prospect.

Over the past month, Pacific Equity Partners, and joint lead advisers Macquarie and Morgan Stanley to a mooted initial public offer, have met fund managers in Australia and Asia to gauge the level of appetite for the brand behind icy treats Billabong, Drumstick and Connoisseur.

PEP stepped up the pressure this week, asking institutional investors to cough up for the business or risk being frozen out in favour of a trade sale.

Peters is the latest PEP asset on the sale block as the buyout firm closes in on the sale of three major investments within the space of three months.

On Wednesday, the buyout firm launched the IPO of Spotless, the outsourcing company it swooped on in 2012, raising $994.6 million by selling 621.6 million shares at $1.60.

Close to 100 institutions picked up shares with the register likely to be dominated by Europeans and to a lesser extent, US and Asian investors.

A blue-chip European institution snaffled close to $200 million of the stock while a US debt investor also took a slice. Sources said the IPO saw significant scalebacks.

Meanwhile, a sale of Peters would deliver PEP a rare hat trick, underscoring the buoyancy of the IPO market and the resurgent pace of M&A activity.

PEP bought Peters in August 2012 for about $300 million, and hopes to secure a deal by June 30.

A marketing presentation shown to fund managers showed that Peters is the market leader in the grocery division of the nation's $2.3 billion ice cream industry.

The company's pro forma revenue is projected to rise from $269.3 million in 2014 to $290.3 million in 2015.

Rothschild, which is advising R&R - in turn owned by French private equity firm PAI Partners - declined to comment.

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