BC Said to Consider Sale of Frozen-Food Maker Picard

BC Partners Ltd., manager of a 5.8 billion-euro ($7.2 billion) private equity fund, may sell Picard Surgeles, the French frozen-food retailer it acquired six years ago, two people with knowledge of the plan said.

The firm hired Rothschild to consider a sale that may value the company at about 1.5 billion euros, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are private. A sale may attract interest from other private equity firms as well as retailers or consumer-product makers, one of the people said.

BC Partners bought Picard in 2004 for 1.3 billion euros from private equity firm Candover Partners Ltd., which had in turn acquired it from French retailer Carrefour SA in 2001. Picard, based in Fontainebleau, has 813 shops in France and makes frozen food under its own brand.

The firm is preparing to sell Picard and return cash to investors before it starts raising a 6 billion-euro leveraged buyout fund in the second half of this year. Private equity executives are resuming purchases and sales of assets after the credit crisis halted dealmaking. The firms have announced $42 billion of takeovers this year, 57 percent more than in the same period a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Separately, Unilever, the world’s second-biggest consumer products company, said last month it is seeking a buyer for its Findus frozen food business in Italy as it shifts away from local labels to focus on international brands.

Findus Italy Bidders

Selling Findus, which has annual sales of more than 450 million euros, would allow the company to boost “investment in brands which will deliver higher levels of growth and shareholder value,” James Hill, chairman of Unilever Italy, said on April 26.

Private equity firms Lion Capital LLP, Permira Advisers LLP of London and PAI Partners of Paris may submit indicative bids on about May 24, people with knowledge of the talks said.

BC Partners, which has stakes in Office Depot Inc., U.K. gym chain Fitness First Plc and British real estate agent Foxtons Ltd., agreed in February to buy French home-care products maker Spotless Group from Axa Private Equity.

A spokesman for BC Partners in London and a spokeswoman for Picard couldn’t immediately comment. Spokesmen for PAI Partners, Permira and Lion Capital declined to comment. Unilever spokesman Trevor Gorin declined to comment.

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