Spanish olive oil firm Deoleo gets best takeover bid from CVC-Reuters

(Reuters) – Spanish olive oil bottler Deoleo , the target of a takeover battle that has taken on political dimensions, said on Wednesday that British private equity firm CVC Capital Partners had made the best bid for the company.

Four Spanish banks put up for sale a combined 31 percent stake in Deoleo, and under local law the buyer of a holding of that size must make a full takeover offer for all of the company’s shares.

Deoleo, which has attracted interest from the Italian government’s strategic fund among others, had previously said that all of the offers it had received for the stake were below the market price of its shares.

CVC bid 0.38 euros per share for the entire company, Deoleo said in a statement on Wednesday, valuing the olive oil company Deoleo at around 439 million euros ($606 million).

Deoleo shares were up 1.1 percent in at 0740GMT, at 0.435 euros per share, after falling sharply in early trading.

Other bidders include U.S. private equity firm Carlyle and Rhone Capital, France’s PAI Partners, and the Italian Fondo Strategico Italiano, according to media reports and sources familiar with the process.

Spain is the world’s biggest olive oil producer, and Deoleo controls three of the world’s top four olive oil labels – Spain’s Carbonell and Italy’s Bertolli and Carapelli.

The Spanish government has said it would not block any foreign bids for the company but cabinet ministers have warned they do not want it to be broken up, and some have even said the state could take a minority stake in Deoleo.

Deoleo said CVC’s offer included other details that are still being negotiated.

“It is (not) possible to confirm at this time whether a deal will be reached or when one would be reached,” the company said.

A source close to the deal said major Spanish shareholders could team up with the eventual buyer.

Olive cooperative Dcoop, Unicaja bank and Ebro Foods are among stakeholders which have not said whether they would sell their shares. Lenders Bankia, BMN, La Caixa and Kutxabank are shedding their holdings.

Deoleo ran into problems in 2009 after years of debt-fuelled acquisitions. It has since been recapitalised, and it had cut its debt to around 500 million euros, or six times core earnings, from a previous level of 16 times core earnings.