Equistone invests in Whitworths

Equistone Partners Europe has taken a majority stake in Whitworths, a UK supplier of dried fruit, nut and seed products, from European Capital, in a transaction which values the business at 90 million pounds ($142.3 million).


Equistone Partners Europe Limited, one of Europe’s leading mid-market private equity managers, today announces that Equistone Partners Europe Fund IV (“Equistone”), has taken a majority stake in Whitworths (“the Company”), the UK’s largest supplier of dried fruit, nut and seed products, from European Capital, in a transaction which values the business at £90m.

Whitworths, a Northamptonshire-based company founded in 1886, supplies branded and own label dried fruit, nut and seed products, with approximately 30% market share in its category. The category has grown impressively through the economic downturn, achieving 7% growth per annum, as the popularity of healthier food alternatives and home baking continues to increase. In the year to April 2013, the Company generated total sales of £157.3m.

The senior management team, led by Peter Utting as Chief Executive, has successfully grown the business in recent years, driven by a resurgent Whitworths brand, and repositioned the business as the clear category captain for major UK retailers. Equistone’s investment will be used to support further development of the product range to address new usage occasions, such as out of home snacking, and to develop further Whitworths’ growing branded proposition, under multiple brands, as well as providing scope to acquire complementary businesses.

Equistone has made several previous investments in the food sector, most recently Charles & Alice, a well-known French manufacturer of fruit desserts. Equistone’s acquisition of Whitworths marks its 14th investment from Equistone Partners Europe Fund IV.

Joyce Church, of Equistone Partners Europe Limited, commented:
“Whitworths stands out as the market leader in dried fruit, nut and seed products, a category with attractive dynamics. The management team has delivered on its strategy to date, and we look forward to working with them to help the business continue to develop, expanding distribution and product offering.”

Peter Utting, Chief Executive of Whitworths, said:
“Together with the management team at Whitworths, I have enjoyed building the Company over the recent years to its current scale and reputation. We are excited to work with the team at Equistone to explore new opportunities, and we are committed to continuing to deliver our exceptional product range and service to our current and prospective customers.”

Debt financing for the transaction was provided by HSBC, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Advisers on the transaction included:
– For Equistone: Spayne & Lindsay (corporate finance), Eversheds (legal), Alvarez & Marsal (financial, operational, tax due diligence), Parthenon (commercial due diligence), Deloitte (tax), Marsh (insurance)
– For Management: Cornerstone (commercial), EMW Law (legal)
– Vendor due diligence: KPMG (financial due diligence), OC&C (commercial due diligence)

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For more information:

College Hill +44 (0)207 457 2020
Antonia Coad +44 (0)207 457 2023
Zinka Bozovic +44 (0)207 457 2821

About Whitworths

· Whitworths is the UK’s largest supplier of dried fruit, nut and seed products.
· Whitworths also provides a range of cooking ingredients.
· Whitworths was founded as a family flour milling business in 1886, and has since expanded to supply to all major UK grocery multiples.
· Whitworths commands a highly complex supply chain, holding long-term relationships with growers, packers and other business partners across 35 countries, sourcing 400 different raw materials using its innovative procurement processes.
· The Company is headquartered in Northamptonshire.

About Equistone Partners Europe

· Equistone Partners Europe Limited is an independent investment firm owned and managed by the former executives of Barclays Private Equity.
· In January 2013, Equistone successfully completed the final closing of Equistone Partners Europe Fund IV with total capital commitments of €1.5bn.
· The Company is one of Europe’s leading investors in mid-market buyouts with a successful track record spanning over 30 years, with more than 350 transactions completed in this period.
· Equistone has a strong focus on change of ownership deals and aims to invest between €25m and €125m of equity in businesses with enterprise values of between €50m and €300m.
· The Company has a team of 33 investment professionals operating across France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, investing as a strategic partner alongside management teams.
· Equistone Partners Europe Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.