Sweet sale for Lion

UK buyout firm Lion Capital has doubled its investment in French jam makers Materne after two years by selling its stake to French mid-market specialists Activa Capital.

The sale price has not been disclosed but the deal has generated an IRR of 40% for Lion, which invested in the company in August 2004 for €55m from Premier Foods.

Lyndon Lea, founding partner of Lion Capital, said: “We have achieved significant progress at Materne over the past two years in partnership with Francois de Lavalette, the chief executive. At the time of our initial investment, Materne faced a number of operational challenges which we have now resolved, the result of which has been a material improvement in the profitability of Materne. We wish Activa Capital success in continuing to exploit the attractive positioning of Materne in the category of healthy snacking.”

Activa has an established track record in the food sector. In August 2005 it acquired Pro Natura, a French wholesaler of organic fruit and vegetables, and in July 2003 it bought French ice-cream brand Mont Blanc, which it recapitalised in October 2005, simultaneously acquiring a further 19% stake from Nestle.

For Lion Capital, the sale was its second exit of the year, the first coming towards the beginning of 2006 through the divestment of Aster, a provider of media and communication services in Poland, to Mid Europa Partners.

Lion also has a history in the food sector, holding interests in Weetabix, Orangina and, most recently, Kettle Foods.