UPDATE 1-Greencore seeks backers for N. Foods bid-sources

Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:41pm GMT

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* Source says looking at "creative ways" to fund offer

* Sources say Greencore in talks with private equity firms

(Adds analyst, Northern Foods comment, shares)

By Matt Scuffham and Simon Meads

LONDON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Ireland's Greencore GNC.I (GNC.L) is talking with private equity firms with a view to securing support for a new offer for Northern Foods NFDS.L, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Northern Foods, which makes Fox's biscuits and Goodfella's pizza, agreed last month to back a bid worth 73 pence per share from businessman Ranjit Boparan, valuing the business at 342 million pounds ($552 million) and trumping an all-share offer from Greencore.

Greencore has said it is reviewing its options and sources said it is now seeking a private equity partner to part-fund a higher offer, possibly including a cash element.

"They are trying to find a creative way to consummate a deal," one of the sources told Reuters on Thursday, countering reports that Greencore might soon walk away.

Northern Foods on Wednesday appointed ex-Cadbury executive Alan Williams as its finance director, leading to speculation it could be giving up on the deal as its original offer had proposed Northern Foods Finance Director Simon Herrick would take the same role in the merged entity.

Brewin Dolphin analyst Michael Vassallo said there is interest among private equity for deals in the sector -- citing Blackstone's recent buyout of Spain's Mivisa. [ID:nLDE6BT18P]

"There's definitely a bit of appetite out there. Private equity are always interested in good food companies and there have been deals recently but it would have to be pitched at a good price to dissuade investors (away from Boparan offer)," Vasallo said.

Greencore and Northern Foods declined to comment.

Shares in Northern Foods, which had been flat on the day, rose to 74.75 pence, 2.4 percent above the offer price, by the close of trade. (Editing by Paul Hoskins and David Holmes) ($1=.6198 Pound)