Hilton Food Group eyeing The Saucy Fish Co. owner Icelandic Seachill

Hilton Food Group eyeing The Saucy Fish Co. owner Icelandic Seachill

UK meat processor Hilton Food Group is in negotiations with The Icelandic Group to buy its local seafood business Icelandic Seachill.

Hilton Food Group, which supplies meat to retailers in Europe and Australia, confirmed the discussions in a stock exchange filing this afternoon (2 August).

"Hilton Food Group Plc notes the media speculation in relation to a potential acquisition and confirms that it is at an early stage of discussions in relation to such a transaction. There can be no certainty at this time whether any agreement on such transaction will be reached, and a further announcement will be made as and when appropriate," the company said.

If Hilton Food Group strikes a deal to buy Icelandic Seachill, it will be the meat packer's first acquisition in the seafood sector.

Icelandic Seachill supplies branded and private-label seafood products to the UK retail sector. Its portfolio includes The Saucy Fish Co. brand, which was launched in 2010 and has since expanded to markets including Australia, Canada and the UAE.

When The Icelandic Group announced in April it planned to sell Icelandic Seachill, it said the unit's revenues totaled GBP266.3m (US$352.5m) in 2016, with EBITDA of GBP10.4m. In the year to 1 January, Hilton Food Group generated revenue of GBP1.23bn, operating profit of GBP34.3m and net profit of GBP26.7m.

The Icelandic Group is owned by the Iceland Enterprise Investment fund, which was set up after Iceland's financial crisis to provide a safe haven for the country's companies. The fund, owned by 16 Icelandic pension funds, Landsbankinn and Icelandic insurance firm VIS, is looking to sell all its seafood businesses by 2019 and has already made a number of disposals.

Last month, the company offloaded Belgian fish processing subsidiary Gadus to fish supply company Steinasalir, which is owned by a consortium of Icelandic businesses.

Last December, The Icelandic Group sold local unit Ný-Fiskur to fellow Icelandic fish business Nesfiskur.

Last September, The Icelandic Group agreed to sell its Spanish subsidiary to Solo Seafood – which is owned by a group of seafood companies in Iceland that are among the subsidiary's main suppliers.

The Icelandic Group is the owner of the Icelandic and Icelandic Seafood brands, managing all marketing for the brands in addition to providing various services to licence holders and other producers in Iceland. The company's primary partners are Solo Seafood and Canada-based seafood group High Liner Foods, which sell seafood products under the Icelandic Seafood brand.