French food holding company Financière Turenne Lafayette (FTL) has postponed the start of construction work on a new production plant making ambient ready meals under its William Saurin brand name.

Work on the site, to be located in Laon, in northern France, had been scheduled to get underway this autumn 2011, with the plant due to enter service next April.

However, a source close to the project, which could cost EUR12-14m, said the plant was now likely to open for business at the end of next year.     

"The postponement is a direct consequence of the recent announcement that FTL is in exclusive negotiations to acquire [French cooked charcuterie specialist] Madrange which is the focus of all the group's energies at present," the source said. "It does not in any way call into question the construction of the plant."    

The 7,000 sqm facility will initially have an annual output of between 6,000 and 7,000 tonnes spanning seven different dishes. Forty jobs will be created and this could increase to 80 in the longer term.