A pack of private equity suitors is circling Princes Foods, the Japanese-owned company which makes dozens of tinned products stocked in British supermarkets.
Sky News understands that Valeo Foods, which is majority-owned by the buyout firm Bain Capital, and Aurelius Group, the corporate carve-out specialist, are among the bidders interested in acquiring Princes.
The company, which is owned by the giant Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi Corporation, produces a range of tinned fish, fruit and ready meals, as well as fruit juices and frozen meals.
Houlihan Lokey, the investment bank, has been appointed to handle the sale, which industry sources said could be valued at £400m or more, depending upon the competitiveness of the auction.
Princes has been owned by Mitsubishi since 1989 but its roots date back to 1900.
Its sales declined in 2022, but the firm 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.
Valeo's interest in Princes is logical, given its ownership of brands such as Rowse honey and Kettle Chips crisps.
A number of other private equity firms, including Capvest, Valeo's former owner, have also been identified as possible bidders for Princes.
One banker suggested a break-up of the company was possible.
A spokesman for Valeo declined to comment, while Aurelius could not be reached.