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Leader managing director disputes AFR report the food company is 'up for sale'

Wednesday 12th October 2016

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Tony Peterson, managing director of frozen convenience food manufacturer Leader, has rubbished a report in the Australian Financial Review that the company is up for sale, though he says the company is "looking at opportunities".

This morning, the AFR reported that Leader, which they called Leader Foods, was up for sale, handled by the local arm of KordaMentha. The Australian publication said Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) might "have the edge" amongst multiple private equity firms who have shown interest.

Leader produces frozen foods including burgers, schnitzels, hotdogs and lasagna toppas, which it sells to retailers including New World, Countdown, and Pak'n Save as well as supplying fast food retailers.

"It's about as correct as they got our name, not very correct at all," Peterson told BusinessDesk. "We've been looking for an investor into the company. It's a food company, nobody's going to come in and buy it lock stock and barrel unless it's a trade partner.

"We've been looking at the opportunity of an exit strategy over the next five years, and specifically looking for a partner that can respect the brand, the culture, the integrity of the company and help move it forward. There's a lot of people trying to buy the business, but it's just choosing - if we do - the right person for the future."

PEP has been trying to buy Leader for about the last five years, Peterson said, as have other investment companies.

"We're looking at opportunities and KordaMentha are dealing with those opportunities for us - something may happen, or something may not happen," Peterson said. "It was a big surprise to see that this morning, I'd been over in Australia and had several meetings two weeks ago."

The AFR also reported that Leader has earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of about $110 million, a figure Peterson said was incorrect and that it could be worth as much as $100 million.

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