Premier Foods announces sale of Fenland canning factories to Princes in �182m deal

PREMIER Foods has this morning announced that it is to sell its East Anglian canning factories to Japanese owned Princes for �182million.

The sale will see Premier’s two manufacturing sites at Long Sutton and Wisbech transferred to Princes. In addition, two of Premier’s warehouses in Wisbech will transfer to Princes.

However, Premier said both firms would work together on logistics long-term.

Premier said the business employs about 1,600 people manufacturing a range of canned foods including baked beans, pasta, vegetables, soup, meat and fruit.

Included in the sale are the Crosse & Blackwell, Farrows, Fray Bentos and Smedley’s brands.

The sale comes less than a month after Premier announced the sale of its meat-free business, including a manufacturing plant at Methwold making and packing Quorn and Couldron Foods brands, to Exponent Private Equity and Intermediate Capital Group.

Robert Schofield, chief executive at Premier Foods, said: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement to sell our canned grocery operations.

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“As a predominantly non-branded business, it has not been an area of focus for us. Selling the Business simplifies our operations and allows us to concentrate our efforts on our current portfolio of great British brands.

“Combined with the proposed disposal of our meat-free business, we will have delivered total gross proceeds of �387million, significantly accelerating the delivery of our financial strategy.”

Princes, which has grown from being an importer of canned fish into a supplier of products ranging from fruit juice and canned meat to microwave meals and sandwich spreads, will have annual revenues of �1.5billion following the deal. It will also have 13 production sites and a 4,500-strong workforce.

Princes operates nine food and drink production sites across the UK in Bradford, Belvedere in Kent, Cardiff, Chichester, Church Stretton in Shropshire, Eden Valley in Cumbria, Erith in London, Glasgow and Manchester.

A Princes spokesman said: “The Crosse & Blackwell, Fray Bentos and Farrow’s brands will also be acquired by Princes.

“A number of Premier Foods’ brands, including Branston and Batchelors would remain under Premier Foods’ ownership but be licensed to Princes on a long-term arrangement for the production of specific products at Long Sutton and Wisbech. These include Branston baked beans and Batchelors canned soups.”

Ken Critchley, managing director at Princes, said: “This proposed acquisition is an excellent strategic fit for our group and will enable us to further grow our business in the UK and continental Europe by offering our customers a broader range of ambient food products and brands.”

Premier said the sale, worth annual sales in excess of �330million, would be reused to pay off debts it had built up.

The sale is conditional on receiving consent from Premier Foods’ lending banks, its shareholders and European Commission merger control clearance. The disposal is expected to complete in late March.