The sale of Bakery Foods, which trades as Matthew Walker, is the latest in a string of disposals by 2 Sisters as it continues to focus on strengthening its core operations. Rumours surrounding the sale of the pudding manufacturer have been circulating since May this year.
Valeo’s acquisition of Matthew Walker was expected to add about €40m (£36m) in sales to the business, bringing annual turnover for the group to more than €1bn (£900m).
Ex-Müller executive Ronald Kers was brought in as 2 Sisters chief executive last summer to streamline the business, cut debt and boost profitability. “Is it job done? Probably not," said Simon Harvey, food correspondent at GlobalData.
Poultry, ready meals
"Kers has indicated a new focus on the ‘core categories’ of poultry and ready meals. In 2011 when 2 Sisters was still a pure-play poultry processor, Boparan bought Leeds-based Northern Foods, and with it, Holland's Pies, Fox's Biscuits, Matthew Walker, Donegal Catch, Green Isle Brands, and Goodfella's Pizza. Only the first two of those are left.
“Holland's Pies has been touted as a disposal candidate before, last year in fact, although 2 Sisters batted down the speculation. Then there's biscuits with more recent speculation about the future of Fox's. For his part, Boparan has been investing and creating jobs at Fox's but is that a sign of longer-term interest or a method of buttering the company up ready for sale?”
Commenting on the purchase, Valeo Foods UK managing director Ian Ainsworth said: “The strength of Matthew Walker’s market leadership, combined with the strong consumer demand for its high-quality products, make the business and its brands a great addition to our existing Valeo UK growth platform.
Plans for growth
“We look forward to welcoming and working with our new colleagues in Matthew Walker as we pursue our ambitious growth plans for the business.”
The finalisation of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and was expected to complete in the coming weeks.
Reportedly the world’s oldest Christmas pudding manufacturer, Matthew Walker has been producing pudding products, seasonal sponges, cakes and free-from desserts from its Derbyshire site.
Established in 1899, the manufacturer employs about 200 people and its products are sold in retailers across the country.
Transformation of 2 Sisters
Ranjit Singh, president of 2 Sisters owner Boparan Holdings, described the sale of Matthew Walker as another significant deal that underlined the transformation of his business.
“It strengthens our balance sheet even further and shows we are following through with our promises by focusing on our key strengths,” he added. “I wish all colleagues at Matthew Walker every future success with a good new owner.”
Boparan Holdings chief executive Ronald Kers confirmed that the company was continuing its turnaround plans, further helped by the sale of Matthew Walker.
“We remain very much on track to meet our strategic aims of focusing on our core businesses and improving our operational performance,” said Kers.