WASHINGTON, July 12 (Reuters) - Swiss-based chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli is in advanced discussions to acquire family-owned U.S. candy business Russell Stover, and the two companies could announce an agreement as early as next week, the Financial Times reported on Saturday.
Quoting unnamed sources close to the matter, the Financial Times said that while it is unclear whether an exact price had been agreed upon, a figure of $1.4 billion is being discussed. The newspaper reported that talks were ongoing and no deal was certain.
Russell Stover, known for its boxed chocolates, is the third-largest U.S. candy company by sales. Lindt is the Swiss-based maker of Lindor chocolate balls and gold foil-wrapped chocolate bunnies.
A deal with Russell Stover would enable Lindt to diversify further beyond the European market, where it gets a big chunk of its revenues, and get a strong presence in the U.S. market. Russell Stover has annual sales of about $600 million, the Financial Times reported.
The Ward family put Russell Stover up for sale earlier this year and has been working with Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, to find a buyer, the newspaper reported. The company has won the attention of a number of private equity firms as well as strategic buyers including Hershey Co and Godiva, the newspaper said.
The company also produces Whitman's brand chocolates and has its products in more than 70,000 drug stores, card and gift shops, grocery stores, department stores and retail stores throughout the United States and in more than 20 countries worldwide, it says on its website.
(Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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