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    Battle is on for ambient food giant Princes

    Epiris and Newlat are the two remaining bidders that are vying for control of Princes Foods, one of Britain’s biggest ambient food groups.

    Epiris and Newlat are said to have seen off competition from rival bidders including Lone Star Funds, the Texas-based private equity firm, and One Rock Capital Partners, another financial investor, Sky News reported.

    The auction is the latest attempt by Mitsubishi Corporation, the giant Japanese conglomerate which owns Princes, to offload the company.

    An earlier process conducted this year failed to draw interest at a sufficiently attractive price. Princes produces tinned fish and fruits, as well as a range of soft drinks. It has been owned by Mitsubishi since 1989, but traces its roots back to 1900.

    Sales declined in 2022, but it still remains one of the UK’s biggest food groups, with revenues of close to £1.5bn in the year to the end of March 2022.

    Princes said it was lapping “an exceptional increase” in revenue booked the year earlier when Covid-19 boosted demand.

    Operating profit stood at £37.4m, versus £47.5m the year before. Profit for the year attributable to the owners of the company halved, falling from £34.8m to £17.2m. Princes pointed to lower sales volumes, higher tax expenses and a boost to the previous year’s profits from an asset sale.

    Princes has two food factories and three beverage production sites in the UK. The company also has a tomato-processing facility in Italy and a tuna-processing site in Mauritius. During the year to the end of March 2022, the company employed, on average, 6,977 full-time staff.

    The auction is being run by Houlihan Lokey, the investment bank.

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