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Private Equity Firms Unite For Birds Eye Deal

(c) Sky News 2012

Two private equity firms vying for control of frozen food maker Birds Eye have joined forces in a £2.5bn buyout offer, Sky News has learned.

City editor Mark Kleinman has revealed that Permira, the current owner of Iglo group's Birds Eye, has given permission for Blackstone (NYSE: BX - news) and BC Partners to table a joint offer for the company.

Kleinman said: "Under the plan being hatched by the two firms, they would jointly share the economic interest in Iglo."

Birds Eye is considered to be one of the most iconic British food names.

It was launched in 1938 and is the largest and best known frozen food brand in the UK, with an estimated 99% brand awareness.

Generations of children have grown up with its television adverts for fish fingers and frozen peas.

Iglo was launched in 1956 in Belgium and later expanded throughout Continental Europe.

In 2006, European private equity firm Permira made a successful bid to buy the Birds Eye and Iglo brand business from food and pharmaceutical giant Unilever (Other OTC: UNLNF.PK - news) .

"There are lots of theories about why the two have teamed up, especially as there were no other serious contenders left in the bidding process," one high-yield banker said of the joint bid.

"BC Partners is perceived as having the financial firepower, while Blackstone already owns the Birds Eye brand in the United States through its Pinnacle frozen food business."

After the firm was put up for sale this year, chief executive Martin Glenn - a former Pepsico (Euronext: PEP.NX - news) executive - said corporate ownership was not an issue.

He told Sky's Dermot Murnaghan: "The consumer doesn't care who owns us, it really doesn't matter.

"I have been in the business since we've gone private from Unilever and it has done really well so we are just focused on driving the business forward."

Kleinman added: "If a deal does take place, it would be one of the largest private equity transactions in Europe (Chicago Options: ^REURUSD - news) so far this year.

"Blackstone and BC Partners, which declined to comment, are expected to back the existing Iglo management team."