Boparan Holdings is preparing to raise its stake in Northern Foods to almost 50% as the UK poultry-to-fish group continues its pursuit to acquire the maker of Goodfella’s pizza.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, Boparan said that it has acquired – or has agreements in place to buy – Northern shares totalling 48.25% of the company’s outstanding stock.

Boparan’s GBP342m (US$550m) bid for Northern has been recommended by the food manufacturer’s board. Boparan has indicated that it would combine Northern with its 2 Sisters Food Group poultry business. The combined entity would generate annual turnover in the region of GBP2bn.

Boparan’s announcement yesterday (9 March) followed the decision from Ireland’s Greencore to pull out of the race to acquire Northern.

Earlier yesterday, Greencore said it had looked at teaming up with an unnamed partner to buy Northern.

The unnamed partner, reported to be a private-equity firm, would have acquired some of Northern’s branded businesses. Such a deal would have provided Greencore with funding to buy the parts of Northern – which is also an own-label supplier – that the Irish company said had the “greatest synergy potential”.

However, Greencore admitted the plan “could not be concluded on terms which would deliver sufficiently strong returns to Greencore shareholders”.

just-food understands that Greencore had secured the support of its investors but saw its plan blocked by the trustees of the Northern pension fund, which has a deficit of GBP142m.