Boparan Holdings, the UK food business behind poultry processor 2 Sisters Food Group and fish-and-chip shop chain Harry Ramsden’s, has confirmed it is mulling a takeover bid for Northern Foods.

Northern, a key own-label supplier to UK multiples and owner of Fox’s biscuits and Goodfella’s pizza, is planning to merge with Ireland’s Greencore but its shares soared today (22 December) on confirmation of Boparan Holdings’ interest in the business.

Boparan Holdings’ owner, food tycoon Ranjit Boparan, has been amassing a stake in Northern since its plans to merge with Greencore were announced last month. Mr Boparan’s stake stands at 6.6% of Northern and this morning The Daily Telegraph said the entrepreneur was planning to launch a GBP300m (US$463.7m) hostile bid for the business.

In response to the speculation, Northern confirmed that Boparan Holdings had requested information about the business under City takeover regulations. Northern, however, insisted the merger with Greencore would offer “substantial benefits” to the business and said its board “unanimously” supported teaming up with the Irish group.

Nevertheless, in a further twist this morning, Boparan Holdings has confirmed it is “at a preliminary stage in evaluating a possible cash offer for Northern Foods”.

Boparan added: “However, there can be no certainty at this stage as to whether this will result in an offer being made for Northern Foods. Further announcements will be made as and when appropriate.”

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Shares in Northern, which this morning posted details of its plans to merge with Greencore to shareholders, were up 7% at 64.75p. Shares had reached as high as 65.84p.