December 5, 2017 / 1:10 PM / 2 years ago

Italy's Guala boss puts auction on hold with own bid plan - sources

LONDON/MILAN, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The sale of Italian packaging firm Guala Closures has been thrown off track after its chairman and CEO Marco Giovannini attempted to raise cash for a possible management buy-out, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Guala’s private equity owners aPriori Capital Partners and Melville hired Credit Suisse and Barclays earlier this year to auction off the 63-year old firm, which is based near the Northern Italian town of Alessandria.

They were hoping to fetch as much as 1.3 billion euros ($1.54 billion) for the maker of stoppers and rubber caps, but indicative bids from industry players and private equity funds fell short of expectations, prompting chairman and CEO Giovannini to seek investors for his own bid, the sources said.

Giovannini, who owns a minority stake in Guala and has been working in the packaging industry for more than 30 years, recently approached banks and investment funds to fund a bid, the sources said, cautioning that no deal is certain.

Guala and its owners declined to comment, Giovannini was not immediately available.

Bidders for Guala include Australian packaging firm Amcor , a consortium led by the Benetton family’s investment group Edizione Holding as well as U.S. investment firm Cornell Capital and European buyout fund Astorg, the sources said.

The bidders have been kept waiting, without knowing whether the auction will restart before Christmas, the sources said.

Edizione Holding declined to comment while Amcor, Cornell and Astorg were not immediately available.

Most bidders are wary of overspending since Guala, which was once listed in Milan, reported 555 million euros of net debt at the end of September, the sources said.

The valuation gap, which has so far proved a major stumbling block, remains a challenge for Giovannini too since investors may be reluctant to back a higher bid, the sources said.

If Giovannini’s bid does not materialise, Guala’s advisers may press ahead with the process, the sources said.

Another source, however, cautioned that bids have so far been too low and the auction could fall apart.

Guala employs about 4,000 people and sells its products in more than 100 countries. The business, which also makes PET bottles, runs 25 production plants and five research centres. ($1 = 0.8427 euros) (Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia; editing by Alexander Smith)

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