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Report: Unilever closes in on exclusive talks to buy parent of snack brand Graze

Unilever PLC is close to entering a period of exclusivity to buy Carlyle Group LP-backed ND1T Ltd., which owns snack food brand Graze, Sky News reported Jan. 30, citing sources.

The Anglo-Dutch consumer giant reportedly is leading a group of prospective buyers for Graze's parent. However, there still exists a possibility of the discussions breaking up as the talks are at a sensitive stage, a source told Sky News.

Other food and beverage companies, such as Kellogg Co. and PepsiCo Inc., also showed interest in buying Graze in recent months, according to the report.

If Unilever does enter the period of exclusivity, it could secure a deal by the end of March for a price that reportedly would be at a "substantial discount" to Graze's £300 million previously reported price tag, the news agency said.

A food industry source told Sky News that Unilever or another entity is likely to pay "£150 million or £200 million, at most" for Graze, which posted a sales decline of 5% a year ago.

Graze began as a subscription-based service for nut, seed, crisp and other snacks in 2008. It has since expanded to retail shops in the U.K. and the U.S., including at WH Smith PLC, J Sainsbury PLC and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.-owned Boots UK Ltd.

Investment bank Harris Williams reportedly is overseeing the auction of Graze.

Private equity group Carlyle and consumer goods major Unilever declined to comment on the report by Sky News.