Premier confirm interest in Wisbech and Long Sutton canning plants but say no guarantee they will sell

HUNDREDS of workers were anxiously awaiting news of their future today after Premier Foods confirmed a possible �250 million takeover bid for their Wisbech and Long Sutton canning plants.

Widely tipped favourite to acquire the site is Princes Food but other possible names being touted around the Stock Exchange included Nestle, Unilever and Danone.

In a statement to the Stock Exchange Premier Foods confirmed it had received approaches “that may or may not lead to a sale of its East Anglian canning operations.

“There can be no guarantee that such a transaction will take place. Further announcements will be made as and when appropriate”.

Although Premier refused to discuss the value of their Fenland businesses, City experts believe a bid of up to �250 million is likely and would help to reduce the firm’s �1.4 billion debt burden.

Union officials at Premier Foods in Wisbech and Long Sutton – which employ over 1,000 workers - are anxious for more information.

Mark Plumb, Unite convenor for Wisbech, said: “All we’ve heard so far is speculation and rumour but, as always, there is generally no smoke without fire”.

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Mr Plumb, who successfully spearheaded strike action earlier this year which led to a 5.6 per cent pay settlement, said he believed a site visit by potential new owners had already taken place.

“Premier has made its quite clear they are open to disposals,” he said. “But we are certainly not being told anything. We made inquiries locally and nationally to try and make sure we can safeguard people’s employment moving forward.”

Mr Plumb said that since the dispute “this site has come on in leaps and bounds, both in terms of being efficient and cost effective. We are now a very sleek operation and this may be a reason why it is potentially attractive to a buyer”.

One of the companies thought to be interested in acquiring Premier Foods is the owner of Princes seafood group (whose parent company is the Mitsubishi Corporation) but Mr Plumb said he could not confirm they had visited Wisbech.

In Wisbech workers make Loyd Grossman sauces, canned soups and beans whilst canned vegetables are among items produced at Long Sutton.

Premier said in August they were “open minded” about selling some of its portfolio to stabilise the group and provided they delivered shareholder value.

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