CMA investigation prompts Whitby Seafoods to abandon proposed acquisition

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Whitby Seafoods produces scampi and other fish products. Credit: Getty / David Linkie
Whitby Seafoods produces scampi and other fish products. Credit: Getty / David Linkie

Related tags Regulation

The proposed acquisition of Kilhorne Bay by Whitby Seafoods has been abandoned following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Based in Whitby, Yorkshire, the scampi manufacturer had agreed on a deal in principle that would see its subsidiary, Kilkeel Seafoods Limited, take control of Northern Irish firm Kilhorne Bay.

However, on 8 August 2023 it was announced that the move would be investigated by the CMA, a regulatory body which seeks to ensure fair competition in the UK. The CMA subsequently confirmed on 4 October that the probe would be progressed to a more in-depth phase 2 investigation.

As a result, Whitby Seafoods confirmed in a statement that it would no longer be pursuing the deal.

As a Yorkshire based, family-owned business with a commitment to providing high quality, excellent value breaded scampi to our customers the proposed merger was appealing because our values are highly aligned with Kilhorne, a small family-owned company based in Northern Ireland​,” a spokesperson for Whitby Seafoods said.

Half of Kilhorne’s scampi sales were in Europe and this gave Whitby a unique opportunity to build a new market for our business. Sadly the resources required to engage in a CMA phase 2 investigation are out of all proportion to any potential benefit from the deal, and we have therefore withdrawn our offer for Kilhorne and will not be proceeding with the acquisition.​”

Founded in 1985, the family-owned business employs 400 people across two sites in Whitby and Kilkeel, NI, respectively.

Producing scampi, fish goujons / strips, fishcakes and calamari, its supplies retailers such as Sainsbury's, Tesco and Farmfoods, as well as producing own brand products for online grocery service Ocado. It also works with pubs and restaurants throughout the UK.

Meanwhile, Kilhorne Bay is based in Annalong, NI, where its operations are primarily focused on the catching, processing and distribution of fish. The firm largely supplies catering, wholesale and retail businesses.

In other news, PepsiCo is investing £33.7m in a soft drinks facility in Cork, Ireland​.

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