Biscuit firm set for new bidder

Ranjit Boparan

Ranjit Boparan

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A SECOND bid for a Fylde Coast biscuit firm could be days away.

Millionaire food tycoon Ranjit Boparan, who supplies millions of chickens to supermarkets across the UK, criticised the parent company of Fox’s Biscuits as he weighs up a £700 million bid for the firm.

Mr Boparan, who already owns a seven per cent stake in Fox owner Northern Foods, said that the firm had lost its way.

He said: “If you look at the pattern, Northern Foods has declined over a number of years.

“They have had a few leaders there over the past five years.

“The big difference is that I have been leading my business for 17 years.

“Northern has fantastic products, but fundamentally, if you don’t know how to take them to market at the right price, that doesn’t matter.”

Fox operates a huge site in Whitworth Street, Wesham, employing around 500 people across the Fylde Coast.

Mr Boparan’s firm, 2 Sisters, has sales of more than £1 billion, and Northern Foods would double the size of his empire.

Parent firm Boparan Holdings Ltd bought fish and chip shop chain Harry Ramsden’s and supplier Five Star Fish last year.

He must now announce a firm intention to make an offer for Northern Foods – where the announcement would also include the terms of the offer - or announce that he does not intend to make an offer for Northern Foods by January 21, in advance of the Northern Foods shareholder meetings on January 31, following an announcement by the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers.

A spokesman for Northern Foods said: “The board of Northern Foods welcomes the announcement by the Panel.

“To date Boparan has not made an offer proposal to the board of Northern Foods and there is no certainty that any offer will be made or of the terms of any such offer.”

Northern is currently in talks with Irish sandwich firm Greencore about a nil-premium merger.

The spokesman added: “The board continues unanimously to recommend shareholders to vote in favour of the proposed merger.

“We continue to believe that the proposed merger with Greencore Group to form Essenta Foods offers substantial benefits for its shareholders, customers and employees and will create a convenience foods business with a strong platform for further growth and the potential to realise significant cost savings through synergies.”

Boparan confirmed that it is in the preliminary stages of evaluating a possible cash offer for Northern Foods and has requested information under Rule 20.2 of the Takeover Code, but refused to comment any further.