Lehman gobbles up Heinz brands

Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking, the private equity arm of the eponymous US bank, has acquired a portfolio of European seafood businesses from HJ Heinz Company for €425m.

Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking is partnering with current CEO Adolfo Valsecchi and David Williams, the former CEO of Heinz Europe.

The European Seafood business comprises leading European ambient seafood brands such as John West in the UK, Petit Navire in France and Mareblu in Italy as well as four production facilities in the Seychelles, Ghana, Portugal and France.

Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking was advised by Lehman Brothers and Spayne Lindsay, and received legal advice from Linklaters. The unit is part of the private equity business of Lehman Brothers, which has total assets under management of more than US$10bn in the asset class.

Deal activity in the European food and drink sector has shown a marked up-tick this year, with CapVest acquiring Findus from fellow buyout shop EQT for around €550m. Egeria, a Netherlands-based mid-market buyout firm, has bought two businesses from Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever. Most recently it sold its meats business, Mora, to Ad van Geloven, which is owned by Egeria.

In another deal that has attracted private equity attention, Unilever is planning to sell the majority of its frozen foods businesses in Europe, but it will retain its operations in Italy. The intended sale will include all the frozen food portfolio under the Iglo and Birds Eye brands and the intention is to sell the business in whole or in part.