Premier Foods in `Advanced' Discussions With Two Bidders on Meat-Free Unit

Premier Foods Plc, the maker of Hovis breads, said it’s in advanced negotiations to sell its meat- substitute unit, which it may divest to reduce debt.

Premier Foods has received several bids from food companies and private-equity firms. Discussions are at “an advanced stage with two parties,” the St Albans, England-based company said in a Regulatory News Service statement today.

Nestle has bid for Premier’s Quorn meat-free brand in a deal that may be worth 230 million pounds ($359 million), Sky News reported yesterday, without saying where it got the information. Premier shares rose 12 percent, the biggest gain in about three months.

Nestle hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. as an adviser and made the offer through Osem Investments Ltd., an Israel-based unit that makes kosher food, Sky reported. Osem’s U.S.-based Foodtech International Inc. unit makes meat-substitute products.

Premier said Oct. 28 it aims to sell assets to reduce net debt, which was 1.37 billion pounds as of June 26. Quorn makes food from mycoprotein, a low-fat protein derived from a member of the fungi family. Premier had sales of 131 million pounds from meat-free products in 2009.

Ferhat Soygenis, a spokesman for Nestle, declined to comment yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Mulier in Geneva at tmulier@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net.

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