Dutch food manufacturing giant Vion has agreed a management buyout of its UK pork operations, safeguarding about 4,000 jobs.
The new venture, backed by private equity firm Endless, will be led by Seamus Carr, md of Vion’s Pork Business Unit. The business had “a strong track record of investing in companies in the UK across a wide range of sectors”, claimed Vion.
Carr said: “Vion’s decision to sell its UK business naturally caused a degree of uncertainty among staff, suppliers and customers. Therefore, I’m very pleased that we have quickly been able to agree a deal for the pork business that secures the future for our staff, our suppliers and gives our customers a seamless transition.”
The new md said he had two ambitions for the new business. The first was to maintain “the excellent levels of service and product quality”, which had helped it secure orders from all the major supermarkets.
The second was to build upon the opportunities in the marketplace to grow the business.
The Dutch multi-national’s pork facilities in England are sited at Wiveliscombe, Malton, Haverhill, Scunthorpe, Hull, Stoke and Enfield.
It also operates a plant at Cookstown in Northern Ireland and the pig farming and feed mill at Brydock, Aberdeenshire.
In the Republic of Ireland, Vion operates the McGee’s butchers business.
Peter Barr, chairman of Vion UK, welcomed the management buyout. He said: “The swiftness with which we’ve been able to agree a deal with the management team of the pork business unit, which knows the company inside-out, underlines our confidence in the sales process.
“It’s therefore very encouraging that the pork business unit should be the subject of a successful and swift sale and this augurs well for our on-going discussions with prospective buyers of the remaining areas of the business. This is the very best outcome and I am sure the response from everyone involved − from our farmers and suppliers − to our employees and customers, will be extremely positive.”
Barr said the firm was now focusing on securing the sales of Vion’s remaining poultry and red meat operations in the UK, which employ about 8,000 people. “Both businesses remain profitable and cash-generative and are generating significant interest from prospective purchasers,” he said.
Discussions were said to be “ongoing” with a number of prospective purchasers for the firm’s other UK poultry and red meat buinesses.
The deal followed Vion’s decision, announced on November 19, to sell its UK food businesses, which employ 13,000 people at 38 sites. The firm said it wanted to focus on its core food activities in the Netherlands and Germany and its global ingredients business.
A spokesman from Endless said: “We are delighted to have been selected by the management buyout team to support their plans and aspirations for such a strategically important business in the UK food sector.”
He also praised the business’s focus on local produce at a time when end customers’ demands for British sourced food are increasing.
Endless is a specialist investor in UK-based businesses, with a reputation for acquiring non-core businesses often from large, overseas parent companies.
Previous investments included: Crown Paints from Akzo Nobel, Bathstore from Wolseley, Acenta Steel from Niagara LaSalle, Davy Markham from TH Global and Amco Group from Billington Holdings.
Vion acquired Key Country Foods in the late 1990s, followed by Tranfield and Grampian Country Food Group in 2008.
The firm’s business focused on supplying beef, lamb, pork and chicken products to a range of blue-chip customers across the food retailing, food manufacturing and food service sectors.