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Irish food group Greencore looks set to buy Uniq after tabling a GBP113m (US$178.8m) takeover offer for the UK desserts-to-sandwiches maker.

Greencore, which earlier this year failed in its bid to merge with another UK food maker, Northern Foods, announced the offer this morning (12 July).

Uniq has effectively been up for sale since April when its majority shareholder, the trustees of the company’s pension fund, said they were looking to sell “all or part” of their stake in the business.

The trustees attained 90.2% of Uniq as part of a deal over the private-label firm’s pension deficit. Uniq handed the trustees the stake in exchange for clearing the company’s GBP436m pension deficit.

Uniq’s pension trustees have given Greencore an “irrevocable undertaking” to accept the bid. Greencore said it would send the details of its offer to the rest of Uniq’s shareholders within the next 28 days.

The Irish firm said Uniq was “an excellent fit” for its strategy in the UK and would give it “greater scale” in the food-to-go and chilled desserts categories.

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By GlobalData

CEO Patrick Coveney said a deal would “broaden Greencore’s commercial footprint” and added: “It represents an important milestone as we extend the scale and leadership positions of our group in the UK convenience market.”

Greencore plans to fund the deal through a share issue that it said would raise EUR80.2m (US$111.1m) and a new debt facility.

The UK firm’s investors will receive GBP0.96 per share, which Greencore said was a 62.7% premium to the opening price for Uniq’s shares when its trustees announced they wanted to sell at least part of their stake.

Uniq chief executive Geoff Eaton said the deal with Greencore was “the best possible result for all concerned”.

Eaton said: “It is a good offer from a strong business that provides an excellent strategic fit and, as such, represents the best outcome for employees, pension members and shareholders, as well as an exciting opportunity for Greencore. 

“The Uniq team has done an exceptional job over the past two years to find a solution to Uniq’s pension scheme issues, whilst continuing to deliver a high quality service to our customers. As a result, the building blocks are in place for the Uniq businesses to realise their full potential with a committed, long-term owner, such as Greencore.”

Greencore’s plan to merge with Northern was scuppered after UK poultry-to-fish supplier Boparan Holdings tabled a successful GBP342m bid for the company.

The Irish group was subsequently linked to a number of firms, including Uniq.