Food giant set for €1.5bn flotation

The maker of Mr Kipling cakes and Paxo stuffing kicked off plans today for a flotation that could value it at more than £1bn (€1.5bn).

The maker of Mr Kipling cakes and Paxo stuffing kicked off plans today for a flotation that could value it at more than £1bn (€1.5bn).

RHM, which employs more than 16,000 staff, said its shares should begin trading in London by the end of July.

The move came after RHM tackled the hole in its pensions fund and offloaded its Golden West business supplying buns to fast food giant McDonald’s earlier this year.

RHM pledged to plough £125m (€188m) of the proceeds from the flotation into its pensions fund to halve the deficit.

The company is being sold by private equity firm Doughty Hanson, which bought RHM in 2000 and will retain a major shareholding after the flotation.

Analysts believe the company will have a market value of between £1bn (€1.5bn) and £1.3bn (€2bn), excluding more than £700m (€1.1bn) of debt.

Jan du Plessis, the current chairman of British American Tobacco, will lead the board and give support to chief executive Ian McMahon.

The flotation comes at a busy time for the London market with online poker firm PartyGaming indicating the price range for its listing yesterday. Premier Foods, the maker of Branston Pickle and a key rival of RHM, joined the stock market a year ago with a value of £527m (€792.5m).

Mr McMahon said the flotation marked a major milestone and “the next logical step in our strategy to transform RHM into the leading UK focused food company”.

RHM – based at Marlow in Buckinghamshire – is one of the largest food companies in the UK, with sales of £1.53bn (€2.3bn) in the year to April 30.

Its other brands include Mothers Pride and Hovis bread, Bisto gravy, Sharwood’s Asian sauces, Lyons cakes, Robertson’s jam and Golden Shred marmalade.

A dozen of its brands account for 77% of revenues and RHM provides own-label products for major supermarket chains including Asda, Tesco and Waitrose.

It is also a major supplier of food to Marks & Spencer, providing the retailer with chilled ready meals and desserts, celebration cakes and premium jams and marmalades.

Since it came under the ownership of Doughty Hanson, RHM has been restructured from a collection of independently operated food companies into a centrally controlled business.

Its strategy is based on wringing further costs from the business, investing in its brands and keeping an eye open for acquisitions.

RHM said it would adopt a progressive dividend policy after flotation, with investors expected to share at least £55m (€82.7m) for the year to next April.

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