Sectors | Mon Jul 16, 2012 10:16am IST

Australia's Ingham Chicken plans sale, appoints Investec

MELBOURNE, July 16 (Reuters) - Australia's largest poultry producer, privately held Ingham, with annual sales of A$2.1 billion ($2.14 billion), said on Monday investment bank Investec has been appointed to sell the business, a deal that could attract private equity interest.

Australian food manufacturers have been highly sought after by private equity and other Asian buyers in the past two years due to resilient sales and solid cashflows, despite a slowing economy.

Hong-Kong based Affinity Equity Partners last year bought chicken firm Tegel Foods in New Zealand from private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) for A$460 million.

Bob Ingham, the sole shareholder of Inghams Enterprises, which owns the Ingham Chicken brand, said in a statement he has decided to sell the business "after long and careful consideration".

"Investec Bank (Australia) Limited has been appointed to manage the process of identifying a suitable buyer for Inghams from a broad range of potential bidders," he said.

Ingham said the sale process was expected to take several months. The company was founded in 1918 and employs 9,000 people across Australia and New Zealand, according to its web site.

Bob Ingham and his late brother Jack inherited the business in 1953 from their father.

In other food deals, China's state-owned Bright Foods bought importer Manassen from CHAMP Private Equity and Japan's Asahi Group Holdings bought Independent Liquor from PEP and Unitas. (Reporting by Victoria Thieberger; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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