14 April 2000

Dairy Crest is given takeover go ahead

DAIRY Crests planned acquisition of the Unigate liquid milk and cheese business, to create the UKs biggest processor, has been given the all-clear by the competition authorities.

According to consumer affairs minister Kim Howells, the merger would not have an adverse effect on competition. "Farmers will still have a good choice of customer."

That view is not shared by all, with some industry commentators convinced a 3bn litre operator will pressurise milk prices. But the news has been welcomed by Dairy Crest and Unigate executives.

The complex legal process to finalise the deal will now continue, with full agreement expected in late May. The Dairy Crest offer of 76m new shares is currently valued at £111m, with a commitment to pay off another £100m of debt.

A rival cash bid by Robert Wisemans Dairies, worth £225m, is also being considered by Unigate. &#42