HP Bulmer, the UK’s leading cider producer, is believed to be close to announcing an acquisition worth £150m, according to CEO Mike Hughes.Talking to the UK press, Hughes said that a deal could come in the next 18 months and the company was looking at a number of beer branding and partnership deals to broaden the group’s market. The company, valued at £200m, would issue shares to fund any major acquisition. However, this once more brought into question the Bulmer family’s 50% stake in the company.Esmond Bulmer at the company’s annual results this week announced his plans to step down as chairman after 40 years. This has added to the speculation that pressure will be brought to bear on the family to reduce their stake.Alan Flockhart said that the family would be behind any board strategy but that there were no fixed plans at present.The group has made a number of acquisitions in the last year. These include a £32m purchase of UK wholesaler Beer Seller and a £19m investment to buy American Hard Cider Company. The latter gave Bulmer a 40% share in the US cider market.The group’s annual results showed underlying profits for the year up 14% to £28.4m. Turnover was up 6% to £335m. The results were ahead of analysts predictions.