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Axa PE Said to Weigh $1.3 Billion Ingredients Unit Sale

Axa Private Equity, a Paris-based buyout firm, is weighing a sale of French food ingredients maker Diana Group, which is valued at more than 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), according to three people familiar with the matter.

The French supplier of natural ingredients for food and pet-food manufacturers will probably attract both strategic and private-equity interest, said the people, who asked not to be identified because talks are private. No final decision has been made on the sale, they said.

Axa Private Equity bought the company, based in Vannes, France, from European buyout firm Cognetas LLP for 710 million euros in 2007. Diana Group, which was founded in 1990, manufactures products such as crispy apricot or strawberry pieces used in cereal bars, carrot liquid to color lollipops strawberry red, and wine extracts for marinades. It also produces ingredients for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.

A representative for Axa Private Equity declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Diana Group declined to comment.

The company employs more than 1,500 staff in 22 countries and had revenue of 392 million euros in 2011, according to its website. It makes about 50 percent of its revenue outside Europe, according to a press release from Axa Private Equity in November.

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