Comvita, the NZX-listed manuka honey company, declined to comment on whether it is interested in making a bid for honey company Manuka Health New Zealand which has reportedly been put up for sale by its Australian owner Pacific Equity Partners.

The Australian newspaper suggested Te Puke-based Comvita or its largest shareholder China Resources Ng Fung as possible buyers of Manuka Health, which was put on the market about six weeks ago for more than A$200 million ($217m) by PEP and advisers Luminis Partners.

Manuka Health was reportedly sold to the Australian private equity firm in 2015 for $110m.

A Comvita spokeswoman said that as a listed company, it was unable to comment on its interest or on any potential acquisitions without first updating the market.


While naming Comvita as a potential buyer, the Australian also said "the current vibe" was that it was not interested in buying Manuka Health.

Comvita shares last traded at $5.70, and have shed 30 per cent of their value this year, taking its market capitalisation down to $264m, after poor honey harvests hurt earnings.

Demand for Manuka honey has soared in recent years on the back of its antibacterial properties and demand for natural health foods.

Other potential buyers for Manuka Health include Chinese private equity firm CDH Investments, which has a controlling stake in New Zealand vitamin brand Go Healthy; Chinese group Primavera which owns Australian vitamin group Vitaco; and global giant Unilever, according to Australian reports, although unidentified sources were cited saying some of those buyers were unlikely, and potential Japanese buyers had shied away at the price tag.

Te Awamutu-based Manuka Health had revenue of $79.5m and net profit of $3.5m in the year ended June 30, 2017, according to its annual filing to the Companies Office.

The company was founded in 2006 by Kerry Paul, with 78 per cent of sales derived from exports.