Private equity companies including Cinven, Lion Capital and Brightpoint are believed to be interested in uniting Heinz’s frozen food business with Unilever’s Birds Eye arm.
Venture capitalist Capvest, which bought the European operations of Findus from EQT in January, is also believed to be in the running for Heinz.
But most analysts say that it would lack the financial clout to tie up Heinz and Birds Eye.
Luke Jensen, director at strategy consultants OC&C, said that Capvest was a medium-sized fund with a strong position in the industry, but would be unlikely to take on something as big as Birds Eye.
The sale of Birds Eye is likely to raise less than the original £1.3bn mooted because of Unilever’s decision to retain its Italian operations.
Patrick Groarke, partner with corporate finance house Livingstone Guarantee, said that if a pan-European frozen food giant was created, operations could could follow the trend in manufacturing away from the UK as a result.