UK food producer Northern Foods has welcomed a deadline set by regulators of January 21 for Harry Ramsden's owner Ranjit Boparan to make a takeover bid for the company.
Northern Foods – producer of Fox’s biscuits and Goodfellas pizza as well as retailer own brand ready meals – is strongly in favour of a merger with Irish food manufacturer Greencore Group, as opposed to any takeover by Boparan. Under the arrangement of the merger, agreed in November, the two companies will become Essenta Foods. Much of the details have already been agreed for this move, including who the new directors will be, and Stefan Barden has already left his role as chief executive of Northern Foods as the restructuring begins.
However, there has been speculation in the press that Boparan, owner of fish and chips restaurant chain Harry Ramsden’s as well as the 2 Sisters Food Group, has tabled a £300m takeover bid for Northern Foods which could scupper the deal. Northern Foods denies the offer has been made.
“To date Boparan has not made an offer proposal to the board of Northern Foods and there is no certainty that any offer will be made or of the terms of any such offer,” said the company in a statement.
Yesterday, City regulators The Panel on Takeovers and Mergers set Boparan a January 21 deadline for outlining the full terms of any bid for the company. If this deadline passes without any formal approach from Boparan, he will be banned from doing so for six months.
An official statement from Boparan’s comnpany, Boparan Holdings Limited says it is evaluating a possible cash offer but there is no certainty that it will place one.
Northern Foods, meanwhile, continues to reiterate its desire for the merger to form Essenta Foods – a company which would have around 17,000 employees across the UK and Ireland, turnover of £1.7bn, and would supply around one in every three chilled ready meals and sandwiches sold in the UK.
It appealed to its shareholders to vote in favour of the merger at its shareholder meetings on january 31.
“The Board continues to believe that the proposed merger…offers substantial benefits for its shareholders, customers and employees and will create a convenience foods business with a strong platform for further growth and the potential to realise significant cost savings through synergies,” it said.
Boparan is a self-made millionaire who has an estimated fortune of £130m. He founded his poultry business, Buxted Chickens, in 1993 and the company is now a leading supplier of Chicken to food manufacturers across Europe. He already has a 6.6% stake in Northern Foods, according to the Uttoxeter Advertiser.