Deal has been struck for GBP67m

Deal has been struck for GBP67m

Five months after UK-based 2 Sisters Food Group revealed it was putting its Matthew Walker Christmas pudding business up for sale, a buyer has been found in the form of Ireland's Valeo Foods Group.

2 Sisters, which is predominately engaged in poultry processing following the sale of a string of other businesses, said it has reached a "binding" agreement with Valeo for Matthew Walker at deal price of GBP67m (US$82m). The transaction is expected to close in the "coming weeks", subject to the usual conditions.

Matthew Walker, based in the town of Heanor in Derbyshire in the English East Midlands, is regarded as the world's oldest Christmas pudding maker and will add to Valeo's food portfolio of confectionery, snacks, meals and baking ingredients, including the brands Barratt, Fox's and Jacobs.

In September, Valeo acquired the European snack assets of US food giant Campbell Soup Co., including the UK-based Kettle Chips and Yellow Chips of the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, 2 Sisters has been in the process of trimming its operations under chief executive Ronald Kers, who joined the company in 2018 from dairy heavyweight Müller. He took over the CEO role from Ranjit Singh Boparan, the millionaire businessman who is now president of parent company Boparan Holdings.

Boparan commented in a statement today (10 October): "After making our intentions known earlier this year, we are pleased to announce this sale today. It is another significant deal, with good enterprise value, underlining our commitment to transforming our business.
"It strengthens our balance sheet even further and shows we are following through with our promises by focusing on our key strengths."

Kers was tasked with transforming 2 Sisters by streamlining its diverse range of operations to cut debt and improve the group's financial performance. After founding the business in 1993 as a predominately poultry-processing firm, Boparan set out on an acquisition spree, expanding into biscuits, seafood, pies, pizza and frozen foods, many of which have since been divested under Kers.

One of Kers' key tasks was to get the company's financials back on track. In 2017, 2 Sisters was front-and-centre of a hygiene scandal at one of its poultry processing plants in the English West Midlands, an episode that hit revenues and profits and dented consumer and customer trust in the business.

Kers added in today's statement: "This sale is further good news as we continue at pace with our turnaround plan. We remain very much on track to meet our strategic aims of focusing on our core businesses and improving our operational performance."

Valeo issued its own statement in which it said Matthew Walker would add around EUR40m ($44.1m) in sales to its own business and take group turnover to more than EUR1bn.

Matthew Walker will become part of Valeo Foods UK. The Christmas pudding maker has an "exciting new product innovation pipeline" and will go about expanding its presence in foodservice channels, Valeo said.

Ian Ainsworth, the managing director at Valeo Foods UK, added: "The strength of Matthew Walker's market leadership, combined with the strong consumer demand for its high-quality products, make the business and its brands a great addition to our existing Valeo UK growth platform, to sit alongside our wider portfolio of products including our very successful Rowse Honey brand. 

"We look forward to welcoming and working with our new colleagues in Matthew Walker as we pursue our ambitious growth plans for the business."