Swiss meat processor Bell Holding has signed a deal to merge its convenience food activities with Liechtenstein-based sandwich to pizza-maker Hilcona.

The merger, subject to the approval of the Swiss Competition Commission, is aimed at achieving faster and more profitable growth in Switzerland and Europe, Bell said today (20 January)

The deal will see Hilcona buy the convenience division of Bell. The Swiss firm will in turn attain a 49% stake in Hilcona from the Toni Hilti Family Trust, the Liechtenstein-based firm’s shareholder.

Bell holds an option to acquire an additional 2% of Hilcona’s capital in 2015, making it the company’s majority shareholder.

Commenting on the agreement, Bell said it will use the partnership to “strengthen its established position in the fast-growing fresh convenience sector”.

In turn, Bell said, Hilcona will become a “full-range supplier” in the fresh convenience sector and will further strengthen its activities in frozen produce and canned foods.

Hilcona will remain independent and will continue to serve food retailers, discounters, the impulse sector, foodservice and the food industry in the Swiss market and in neighbouring EU countries.

Its board of directors will consist of three members from Bell and four representatives of the Toni Hilti Family Trust. Juergen Hilti has been appointed chairman of the board and Gerhard Evers as CEO. Hilcona will be managed by its current management and the management team of Bell’s convenience division.

Hilcona has forecast 2011 revenues to “significantly exceed” CHF400m (US$418.7m).

Bell said there are plans to expand the existing plants. No job cuts are expected to be made with the deal.