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Capital Markets

Premier Foods: Capital raising has new flavour

Premier Foods seeking approval for rights issue and placement.

The equity capital markets will soon test a new type of capital raising for UK corporations. Premier Foods, the Branston pickle to Cadbury chocolate producer, is being touted as the first company to seek shareholder approval for a concurrent rights issue with a large-scale placement to one or more private equity investors.

Premier is the classic good business with a bad balance sheet. Even in these straitened times, Britons apparently continue to comfort themselves by chewing on loaves of toasted Hovis bread and hoovering down sickly sweet bowls of Angel Delight. The company expects sales for 2008 to be 9% ahead of those in 2007, with growth in the second half coming in at 10%, driving a trading profit for the year of between £315 million and £320 million.

Unfortunately, servicing costs on £1.78 billion of acquisition debts will consume £130 million of that. The company has negotiated some wiggle room from its banks but is keen to reduce debt by the end of March. Asset sales – it negotiated $45 million for its speciality bakery group in France last month – will not be enough and the company has been sounding out shareholders. Robert Schofield, chief executive, says: "Our review of our capital structure is progressing well, discussions with stakeholders are constructive."

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