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Lighthouse picks up 20% stake in Unibic

US private equity Lighthouse Capital is picking up a strategic minority stake in Bangalore-based Unibic India, makers of premium cookies. Indian biscuit industry veteran Nikhil Sen headed Unibic has serial entrepreneurs DD Saxena and Michael Quinn as its co-promoters.

It is learnt that Lighthouse Capital’s investment is routed through an associate vehicle, and is estimated to be under $5 million. Lighthouse could be taking between 15/20% stake. The promoters hold over 60% stake in the company after divesting about one-third of the equity to private investors in a recent round of fund raising.

Unibic India is an associate of Unibic Australia, one of the top three cookie makers in the market with revenue topping $50 million. Unibic India’s retail presence is through a portfolio of brands comprising Brandman, Anzac and Unibic.
Speaking to ET, Nikhil Sen confirmed Lighthouse Capital’s investment into the company but declined to divulge the size of the deal and the quantum of stake picked up by the PE.

Unibic is targeting Rs 100 crore business in the next 3-4 years. India’s moulded premium offerings is estimated at Rs 600/700 crore reporting robust double digit growth currently. The notable players in the segment include Britannia’s Good Day, and Parle’s Hide & Seek and Milano.

Mr Sen said Unibic was mulling a slew of initiatives aimed at redefining the frontiers of biscuits in India. “We are clear that we do not intend to play in the backyard of the established companies,” he added. The company plans to launch a product specifically targeting the teenager segment.

“In the period after parental supervision and before adulthood, consumers are not targeted at all. We plan to launch a product precisely for this segment,“ said Mr Sen. Also on the anvil are plans to launch products like fruit-based cookies and functional health offerings.

Currently 80% of Unibic India’s revenues are driven from their retail initiatives that are currently restricted to three states in the south. Unibic is making moves for a wider national presence and expects strategic alliances and exports to contribute nearly 50% of its revenues in the future.

The company currently has an alliance with Cafe Coffee Day, where its cookies are sold under the Cafe Coffee Day brand name. The company is also making in-roads in exporting to Australia, and has already made a breakthrough with a deal for Australian retail major Coles.

Source : Economic Times

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