EQT exits frozen food business

The Northern European private equity house has sold Findus to CapVest Equity Partners, part-owned by US insurer AIG.

Swedish private equity firm EQT has sold its stake in frozen food products company Findus to CapVest Equity Partners. CapVest, part-owned by US insurer AIG, made the transaction through portfolio company FoodVest for an undisclosed sum.

Sinding:fund IV more than 40 percent invested

EQT originally acquired Findus from Swiss food group Nestlé in January 2000. The investment was made from the firm’s EQT II fund, which closed on €670 million ($810 million) in 2000.

Christian Sinding, partner at EQT, told PEO that EQT II is fully invested and has realised most of its investments. Companies still to exit include Swedish point-of-care testing business HemoCue and Finnish mobile phone charging device manufacturer Salcomp. Sinding declined to comment on how much the fund has returned to investors so far.

EQT is currently investing from its 2004-vintage €2.5 billion EQT IV fund. Sinding said that, following last month’s purchase of German engine manufacturer MTU Friedrichshafen from automaker DaimlerChrysler in a €1.6 billion deal, fund IV is currently more than 40 percent invested.

Sinding said that under EQT’s ownership, Findus has made a number of acquisitions, including Norwegian frozen food brand Frionor in August 2000, and has refocused on its key markets. “Once [Frionor] was integrated, we decided to change the strategy to focus on the Nordic region and France,” he said. “We hired a new management team to provide that focus and divest the operations outside of Australia, Germany, Spain and the UK.”

Deutsche Bank, Vinge and Ernst & Young advised both EQT and Findus on the transaction.

Findus is not the first company to swap hands between EQT and CapVest. In January 2004, EQT sold Finnish baker Vaasan & Vaasan to CapVest for four times its original investment.

Findus develops, produces and markets branded frozen food products, in particular ready meals, seafood and vegetables. The company operates six factories in Sweden, Norway, France and Thailand, and employs approximately 1,900 employees. In 2005, net sales amounted to approximately €450 million.