Greencore to buy UK food group

Greencore Group today swooped for M&S food supplier Uniq in a deal wrapping up the last remaining slice of the former Unigate empire.

Greencore Group today swooped for M&S food supplier Uniq in a deal wrapping up the last remaining slice of the former Unigate empire.

Dublin-based Greencore, which serves some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets and recently missed out in a takeover battle for Fox’s biscuits owner Northern Foods, has offered £113m (€128m) for the UK business.

Uniq’s 1,900 workforce makes sandwiches from a site in Northampton, salads at Spalding and desserts at Minsterley in Shropshire and Evercreech, Somerset.

Its pension fund put the business up for sale earlier this year after 90% of Uniq’s shares were transferred to the scheme in return for tackling a £436m deficit, which was a legacy of its previous incarnation as dairy giant Unigate, with former milkmen among the 21,000 member scheme.

The conglomerate once boasted 30,000 staff in the UK, Europe and North America but its dairy business was sold to Dairy Crest in 2000 before its logistics business Wincanton was demerged a year later.

Greencore, which employs 7,000 people and has 20 sites in the UK, Ireland and the United States, said the Uniq acquisition would bolster its scale in the food-to-go and chilled desserts categories.

The company recently agreed a tie-up with Goodfella’s pizza maker Northern Foods but the deal was scuppered when an offer by the owner of Harry Ramsden’s fish restaurants Ranjit Singh Boparan was accepted by Northern’s board.

Greencore said it planned to part-fund the acquisition through the issue of new shares to investors.

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