The UK’s Pension Protection Fund (PPF) said today (21 June) it is set to start assessing the pension scheme of turkey producer Bernard Matthews, which was acquired last night by the private investment vehicle of Ranjit Singh Boparan, the chief executive of the UK’s 2 Sisters Food Group.

The investment vehicle, known as Boparan Private Office, confirmed it had bought Bernard Matthews, “securing 2,000 jobs”, after the company was put into administration by former owner private-equity firm Rutland Partners.

However, just-food understands the PPF is now looking into why Bernard Matthews was placed into administration by Rutland, which is said to have rejected an earlier, confidential offer by Boparan to buy the firm inclusive of all assets and pension liabilities. Rutland has declined to comment on this so far.

The PPF is a statutory fund that provides a safety net to members of pension schemes which are in deficit. A PPF spokesperson said: “We have been made aware that Bernard Matthews has gone into administration. As a result, we expect that the pension scheme will enter the PPF assessment period, and members can be reassured that we are there to protect them.”

Boparan told just-food today that although its earlier offer to buy Bernard Matthews complete with liabilities was declined, Bernard Matthews staff who are now employees of Boparan will see it continue with the same pension arrangements. 

However, the pre-pack administration deal has effectively wiped the slate clean, with the PPF confirming all pension liabilities before the sale are now set to move to the fund – which could mean a cut to the entitlements accrued before the acquisition.

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Deloitte has been appointed as administrators to Bernard Matthews and oversaw the pre-pack sale to Boparan. “No redundancies have been announced and the group will continue to trade as normal,” Deloitte told just-food. 

Deloitte said: “PPF rules mean that in most cases, for existing pensioners of normal retirement age, the current level of payments would be unchanged, but future increases could be reduced. For members that have not yet retired, payments in respect of accrued benefits would reduce by 10%, and subject to a cap.”

Dan Butters, joint administrator and partner in Deloitte’s Restructuring Services practice, added: “This famous 65-year old brand had been operating in a challenging market for some time, and today’s announcement is a positive outcome for the business and the brand. We are pleased that all the jobs have been preserved and the business can make a fresh start with new owners.”

The UK’s biggest trade union, Unite, has given the deal a “cautious welcome”. However, a spokesperson said Unite was “seeking clarification on future employment, pay, and terms and conditions under the new ownership”.

Talks between union leaders and the Bernard Matthews’ management team are due to be held in Norfolk today. Unite regional officer Steve Harley said the union had “searching questions” on future employment, pay, and terms and conditions.

Rutland Partners has been looking for potential buyers for Bernard Matthews since June.