The private equity owner of Pret A Manger is eyeing a major investment in upmarket chocolate retailer Hotel Chocolat, which is valued at more than £100 million.
Bridgepoint Development Capital has held early-stage talks with Hotel Chocolat about buying a minority stake, but faces stiff competition from other buyout firms.
Hotel Chocolat, whose chief executive is Angus Thirlwell, has grown rapidly in the past decade by carving a niche for itself on the High Street selling premium chocolate, while market leader Thorntons has increasingly focused on upping its offer in the supermarkets.
The retailer, which has 70 UK stores and outlets in the US, Denmark and the Netherlands, hired advisers at the accountancy firm PwC after receiving unsolicited approaches from suitors.
Bridgepoint Development Capital is the smaller buyout arm of Bridgepoint. Hotel Chocolat co-founders Peter Harris, who is development director, and Thirlwell are majority shareholders.