Ruby Acquisitions, a company controlled by funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management, has reached an agreement to acquire Richmond Foods in a deal worth GBP182.2m (US$3317m). The move, an Oaktree spokesperson told just-food, is part of the investment group's strategy to become an important force in the European ice cream market.

If shareholders approve the deal, they will receive GBP7.50 per Richmond share. This is about 27% higher that the share price at close of business yesterday (4 May).

Ross Warburton, chairman of Richmond, said: "We believe that the proposals represent good value for the business and its prospects and, after careful consideration, the independent directors are unanimous in recommending shareholders to vote in favour of the Proposals. The proposals provide shareholders with the ability to crystallise the value of their holdings at a significant premium to the historic share price."

Oaktree recently acquired German ice cream maker Roncadin, a firm that Richmond had also been bidding for.

Oaktree MD Caleb Kramer emphasised the company's ambitions to strengthen each company by unifying the businesses. "Our goal is for Richmond to remain focussed on its core geographical market but, once combined with Roncadin, to leverage both companies' strong market positions and reputation for high-quality products to enable us to serve customers on a pan-European basis. We are committed to helping management establish the combined company as the distinct market leader in terms of innovation and customer service."

It is now likely to turn its attention towards further acquisitions, an Oaktree spokesperson told just-food.

"One of Oaktree's objectives," company spokesman Patrick Donnovan said, "is to become a major player in the pan-European ice cream market. Oakfield will be looking out for future acquisitions that fit this strategic direction."