Northern Foods, the UK food group planning to merge with Ireland’s Greencore, has confirmed a request for information from shareholders and food tycoon Ranjit Boparan.

Since Northern announced plans to merge with Greencore last month, Mr Boparan has built a 6.6% stake in the UK firm, leading to rumours that he may launch a takeover bid for the business.

The Daily Telegraph this morning (22 December) reported that Mr Boparan, the owner of poultry and fish group Boparan Holdings, was planning to table a hostile bid worth GBP300m (US$463.1m).

Reacting to the report, Northern issued a statement to the London Stock Exchange revealing that the company had received a letter from Boparan Holdings on 17 December “requesting access to certain information pursuant to Rule 20.2 of the City Code on Takeovers and Mergers”.

Northern said: “The letter contained no further details regarding Boparan’s intentions and Boparan has not made an offer proposal to the board, nor has it indicated the price at which any offer may be made. Shareholders should be aware that there is no certainty that an offer will be made nor as to the terms upon which any such offer may be made.”

Northern, a key own-label supplier to UK multiples as well as owner of brands like Goodfella’s pizza and Matthew Walker Christmas puddings, also announced this morning that it had posted a circular to its shareholders on the details of its planned merger with Greencore.

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The plan, which would create a new company, Essenta Foods, was again praised by Northern.

“The board of Northern continues to believe that the proposed merger with Greencore to form Essenta Foods, offers substantial benefits for its shareholders, customers and employees and will create a convenience foods business with a strong platform for further growth and the potential to realise significant cost savings through synergies,” the company said.

“The board of Northern continues unanimously to recommend shareholders to vote in favour of the proposed merger at the shareholder meetings on 31 January, as the directors of Northern intend to do in respect of their own respective beneficial holdings of Northern shares.”

Shares in Northern were up 7.4% at 65p at 09:16 GMT this morning.

Boparan officials are so far not commenting on the speculation.