* 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 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
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),"
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)