Belfast Telegraph

Greencore refuses to rule out fresh bid for Northern Foods

The battle over Fox's biscuits firm Northern Foods continues to simmer after the UK's biggest sandwich maker again refused to rule out a bid.

Dublin-based Greencore said it was still considering its response to a rival £342m offer from the owner of the Harry Ramsden's fish restaurants. That deal, struck in January, scuppered Greencore's hopes of a merger with Northern.

It has been reported that Greencore, which makes ownlabel sandwiches and other chilled convenience food for some of the UK's biggest supermarket chains, is working on a possible higher offer backed by private equity.

Leeds-based Northern, the maker of Goodfella's pizza and a range of other supermarket products, agreed a merger with Greencore before switching sides to Ranjit Singh Boparan, who also owns the Two Sisters chicken processing business.

Boparan said yesterday he now holds or has agreed to acquire 34.4% of Northern Foods' shares after 23% of Northern's shareholders accepted the offer.

Greencore said today: "Greencore confirms it is still considering its options in relation to Northern Foods and a further announcement will be made in due course."

Northern has 14 sites in the UK and employs 9,000 people, while Greencore has around 7,000 staff and 17 manufacturing facilities in the UK, including a large sandwich-making site at Manton Wood, Worksop.

Boparan has 12 manufacturing sites in the UK and eight in Europe, with approximately 6,000 employees.

He co-owns Boparan Ventures, which bought the FishWork's restaurants from administrators PwC in 2009, along with the West Bromich-based Two Sisters Food Group, one of the UK's biggest chicken processors best known for its Buxted and Devonshire Red brands.

Northern Foods manufactures ready meals for Marks -amp; Spencer, Morrisons and Tesco.

Mr Boparan plans to combine the Two Sisters company and Northern Foods to create a business with a £1.7bn turnover.