The private equity owners of United Biscuits will struggle to find a trade bidder that can afford the £2bn asking price, believe experts and may have to break up the business to sell it.
This week, it emerged that Blackstone and PAI Partners were looking for bankers to handle the sale of the company they bought in 2006 for £1.6bn.
The news has sparked furious speculation as to who might be in the running. Kraft, which had a 25% stake in UB before it was sold to the current owners, is thought to be in the frame as is Nestlé, which lost out to Kraft in the Cadbury deal.
However, one M&A expert claimed that many of UB's rivals would not be able to raise the necessary funds and that UB would have to be broken up into separate biscuit and snacks businesses to find buyers.
"Premier, Northern and Burton's all have a lot going on with their balance sheets right now," he said.
If this happened, the biscuits business was likely to be UB's most sought-after asset as it has four of the UK's top 10 biscuits brands, including market leader McVitie's Digestives, which is joined by Go Ahead! and Jaffa Cakes in the top four.
An internal memo from UB MD Benoit Testard leaked to The Grocer in May revealed it was £10.5m down on sales targets for the first three months of 2010, and suggested biscuits were performing better than bagged snacks.
A source close to PepsiCo said it could be interested in UB's snacks business but would only want to keep key brands such as McCoy's and would probably dispose of the rest.
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