Amid desire from some quarters for Tip Top to stay in New Zealand ownership, one name keeps popping up as a potential buyer.

Billionaire businessman Graeme Hart and his son Harry are seen as likely to take a look at the ice cream business, having recently established a food manufacturing group of their own.

Whether Tip Top fits in with the Hart's' Walter & Wild food group, which includes Hubbards Foods, Hansells and Gregg's Sauces, is another matter. But the father son duo does have a penchant for well-known consumer brands.

Graeme has also previously done well from Fonterra assets, for instance when his Rank Group bought New Zealand Dairy Foods from the co-operative in 2002 for $310 million.
Three years later Rank sold the business back to Fonterra for $754m.

Advertisement

Hart loves nothing better than finding poorly managed businesses, taking costs out and ramping up sales. Tip Top is understood to generate earnings before interest & tax of $18-22m a year.

Investment bank FNZC is running the sales process and is expected to send out a term sheet to interested parties this week.

Those familiar with Tip Top say the business would suit a buyer that already has a portfolio of brands and access to overseas markets.

The brands in Hart's Walter & Wild portfolio include Alfa One, Aunt Betty's, Hansells, Vitafresh, Vitasport and Coconut Collaborative, Hubbards' mueslis and cereals, and Greggs table sauces.

It might not be too much of a stretch to add ice cream to the mix.