Belfast Telegraph

Gardening company adds pet food to portfolio in £18m deal

A RAPIDLY-expanding gardening business from Northern Ireland has bought an English pet products firm for £18m.

Dungannon-based Westland Horticulture has acquired Cranswick Pet Products in Driffield, Yorkshire, with the intention of growing its market share in Europe's wild bird food sector.

The firm bought out the senior management and majority shareholder of Lloyds Development Capital (LDC) which joined forces in 2009 to buy the parent company Cranswick Pet and Aquatics from pork giant Cranswick plc.

LDC will keep its majority stake in the tropical marine division, the other trading division of Cranswick Pet and Aquatics.

Cranswick Pet Products manufactures and distributes branded and own-label food products for wild birds and small animals. It employs 112 people.

The firm's sales rose to £41.3m during the year ending March 2012, up more than 10% from £37.5m in 2009.

Westland Horticulture specialises in the development and sale of gardening products.

It also owns Unwins, a top seed brand and employs around 300 people at sites in Northern Ireland and at Alconbury in England, selling around 95% of its products in Britain and the Republic.

Westland recently launched Peckish, a food for garden birds.

The wild bird market is forecast to grow 10% year-on-year.

Edward Conroy, joint managing director of Westland, founded the firm in the early 1990s with Robert Lavery. Turnover has grown from £15m to £77m over the last 15 years.

Mr Conroy said that both Westland and Cranswick Pet Products have strong records in growing categories.

"It is these synergies that make this one of the most exciting opportunities in the gardening market," he said.

"A key reason for Westland to invest in Cranswick was the knowledge and the commitment of the senior management team as well as its high quality workforce."