(Reuters) – The sale of Kuwaiti food company Americana is close to being put on hold, partly due to differences on price, three sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
Americana, backed by Kuwait’s billionaire al-Kharafi family, operates franchises for restaurant chains including KFC and Pizza Hut. The group has a market value of 1.13 billion dinars($3.84 billion).
Reuters reported in April last year that Americana was exploring a sale with investment bank Rothschild [ROT.UL].
Private equity funds KKR and CVC [CVC.UL] were among the main contenders for the business in a lengthy bidding process that also attracted interest from Saudi food producer Savola Group among others.
Americana said in November last year that the Kharafis were in preliminary talks with various parties.
But the sale is faltering because offers have so far failed to meet price expectations and buyers have struggled to reach agreement with the al-Kharafi family.
Two of the sources said the deal might not be totally dead and an agreement could still be reached.
“It remains to be seen if it comes back at a later date. But at the moment we have no traction on this deal at all,” one source familiar with the matter said, asking not to be named because the talks are private.
CVC and KKR declined to comment. MAK, the private investment company backing Americana, was not immediately available to comment.
Sources close to the deal said the fact that the business was family-backed had thrown up obstacles as this introduced an element of emotional attachment to the pure economics of the deal.
The Kharafi family own 66.8 percent of Kuwait Food Company, according to Thomson Reuters data, through the private investment company MAK (Mohammed Abdulmohsin al-Kharafi & Sons). Kuwait Food Company sells goods under the brand name Americana.
Americana, founded in 1964, says it is the largest restaurant chain operator in the Middle East and North Africa region. It operates more than 1200 food and drink outlets globally, including for Krispy Kreme, TGI Friday’s and Costa Coffee. Last year, its third-quarter net profit rose 33.6 percent to 10.9 million dinars and operating revenue increased 5 percent year on year and costs fell.
Deal multiples in the food and drink sector have been on the rise, hitting the low teens for some deals, as buyers from Japan, China and the Philippines look to expand into Europe and North America, while global players seek out emerging markets to offset sluggish demand in mature regions.
At the same time, the global food sector as a whole has benefited from a flight to safety and reliability. The Thomson Reuters Global Food Processing Index, a broad share price index of food makers from around the world, is up more than 7 percent over the last year.
In 2014, there were 70 private equity deals involving Middle Eastern companies with a total value of $5.86 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data. In Europe, there were 613 private equity deals totaling 100.1 billion euros ($117.96 billion) in the year to Dec. 18, according to EY.
By Freya Berry and Anjuli Davies (Additional reporting by Martinne Geller and Ahmed Hagagy; Editing by Sophie Sassard and Jane Merriman)