Unitas, PEP Looking to Sell Stake in Independent Liquor

Buyout shops Unitas and Pacific Equity Partners are looking to sell a stake in New Zealand beverages group Independent Liquor, Reuters reported Thursday. PEP and Unitas bought Independent Liquor in 2006 for more than $1 billion, and have now hired UBS to find strategic partners to sell their stakes in the business, Reuters wrote.

(Reuters) – Private equity firms Unitas and Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) are looking to sell a stake in New Zealand beverages group Independent Liquor, sources said on Thursday, with China’s Bright Foods Group Co said to be among the suitors.

The sources were not able to confirm the size of the sale. Independent Liquor had NZ$414.4 million ($334 million) in revenue last year, but recorded a loss of NZ$22.7 million. It had borrowings of NZ$693 million, according to filings.

Sources said PEP and Unitas were “testing the waters” and were also open to a full exit, although it was early days for the deal. Based on Reuters calculation, the company had about NZ$95 million in EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) and applying a 10-12 times multiple would give the company an enterprise value of about NZ$1 billion.

PEP and Unitas, which acquired Independent Liquor in 2006 for more than $1 billion, have hired UBS AG to find strategic partners to sell their stakes in the business, the sources said. The sources had direct knowledge of the auction but were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.

PEP declined comment, while Unitas was not immediately available.

One source said Japanese companies with a presence in Australia could also be interested in the process.

A Bright Food spokesman declined comment. UBS was not available for comment.

Bright Food, a Shanghai-based food and dairy company, said last month that it was determined to expand abroad through acquisitions.

Unitas is a buyout group formerly known as CCMP. That group spun out of J.P. Morgan when the bank decided to hive off it’s private equity arm. Pacific Equity Partners is a buyout fund focussed on investments in Australia and New Zealand.

(Reporting by Denny Thomas and Michael Smith; Additional reporting by Stephen Aldred, Melanie Lee and Sonali Paul; Editing by Chris Lewis)