Iceland Foods Bids Not Due Till 2012

Second round bids for a majority stake in British grocer Iceland Foods are not expected until early next year, one of the selling shareholders said, according to sister news service Reuters.

“We are not in a hurry. We are making good progress and will run the process in a way that optimises the most value,” said a spokesman for Landsbanki, the failed Icelandic bank which, along with peer Glitnir, is selling a combined 77 percent stake in the British frozen foods specialist. “We anticipate that, with the oncoming busy Christmas period, bids will likely be expected early next year.”

Followers of the auction had been expecting second rounds bids to go in before Christmas, but talks with Iceland Foods’ founder and chief executive Malcolm Walker over the information to be disclosed to potential bidders have dragged on. A person with knowledge of the matter said these discussions had now been resolved.

Private equity groups Bain Capital, BC Partners, The Blackstone Group and TPG Capital all submitted first round bids, as did supermarket groups Asda and Wm Morrison Supermarkets, sources close to the process have said. The bids valued Iceland Foods at around £1.3 billion to £1.5 billion ($2 billion to $2.4 billion), they added.

Walker, who along with other managers owns the remaining 23 percent of the business, has said he plans to table a bid as well and is talking with potential partners. Under a shareholder agreement, he will win the auction if he matches the highest bid. Walker had a bid that valued Iceland Foods at about £1 billion turned down last year.

(Michelle Martin is a journalist for Reuters in London.)