Newlat bails out of Princes bidding, leaving Epiris as sole suitor

The Newlat logo and some of its branded food products
The Newlat logo and some of its branded food products | Photo courtesy of the Newlat Group
4 Min

Reggio Emilia, Italy-based Newlat Group has withdrawn from its pursuit of U.K. shelf-stable product brand Princes Limited.

In a 16 February announcement made via the Borsa Italiana, where the company is listed, the Newlat Group said it had halted negotiations for 100 percent of the share capital of Princes Limited, which produces a line of canned tuna, sardines, salmon, and mackerel popular in the U.K. Newlat said it had recently submitted an acquisition proposal for Princes that took into account lower demand and price dynamics in a U.K. market buffeted by headwinds.

“Newlat Food conducted an in-depth analysis on the strategic integration of Princes, and considering the challenging market environment in the United Kingdom marked by a decrease in demand and a significant drop in inflation, which is expected to lead to pressures on both sales volume and retailers' demands for price reductions the company deemed it appropriate to revise the values proposed in the initial offer. This last offer was not accepted by the seller: Mitsubishi Corporation,” it said.

Mitsubishi began accepting offers for Princes in 2022 but halted the process after experiencing lower sales through March 2022. After successfully increasing prices, Mitsubishi upped its asking price to at least GBP 600 million (USD 770 million, EUR 702 million).

Besides Newlat, others interested in Princes included Valeo, a fund run by Bain Capital; German private equity firm Aurelius; U.K. fund Epiris; and U.S. private equity firms Lone Star Funds, One Rock Capital Partners, and TPG.

In December 2023, Sky News reported Epiris and Newlat had emerged as the final two bidders for Princes. It reported Mitsubishi was asking for at least GBP 400 million (USD 504 million, EUR 467 million), but with Newlat’s withdrawal from the process, it appears as if only Epiris remains in the bidding.

Newlat, a multi-channel player in the branded food segment with involvement in the pasta, milk, dairy, bakery, and instant noodle sectors in the U.K., Germany, and Italy, said it “remains open to reevaluating the target should the seller be willing to reconsider the sale based on the last offer presented.”

“In any case, the company confirms its acquisitive profile and the continuous search for external growth opportunities, supported by an increasing availability of its own resources and the presence of significant financial partners who were ready to provide their full support to the group in front of this great opportunity and who we are confident will continue to support us in the future,” it said.

Princes traces its roots back to 1880 as a fish import firm founded in Liverpool, U.K., where it retains its international headquarters. It has been owned by Mitsubishi since 1989.

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