UK prepared foods and produce company Geest has announced that it is expanding its presence in the fresh prepared foods sector through the acquisition of Anglia Crown for a cash consideration of £14m (US$25.0m), with another £2m pay-out dependent upon performance.

Geest said Anglia Crown is the second-largest player in the outsourced delivered meal sector - and the leading producer of fresh meals for UK hospitals - with a turnover of around £16m. Anglia Crown, which reported operating profits of £2.0m in the year ended 28 March 2004, supplies, under contract, over 100 hospitals and operates from sites in Colchester and Manchester, which have the capacity and ability to expand further with minimal investment.

"This acquisition represents an exciting opportunity for Geest and fits in perfectly with our aim to fulfil consumer demand for fresh prepared foods through new trade channels, alongside our UK retail customers," said Gareth Voyle, Geest's chief executive officer.

Geest also announced its interim results for the six months ended 3 July 2004. The company said highlights included sales growth of 7% and total operating profit before goodwill of £15.6m, despite the tough UK food retail trading environment.

"We continue to see strong consumer growth for fresh prepared foods. However, the UK trading environment for food retailers continues to be challenging and has created increasingly turbulent trading conditions for suppliers and which are affecting our results this year. We have responded by improving operational efficiencies and developing new revenue streams," said Sir John Banham, chairman of Geest.