1 March 1996

Malton makes play for Harris bacon

By Philip Clarke

UNIGATES Malton Bacon Factory is further strengthening its hand in the UK pigmeat business with the planned takeover of Hillsdown Holdings Harris Group.

The £11.4m acquisition, which is close to completion, comes hot on the heels of Maltons £20m takeover of Bookers Stocks Lovell bacon operation in January.

The deal includes a bacon slicing plant in Cheshire and a processing plant in East Anglia and will add another £110m turnover, taking the entire Malton business to £540m.

Shutdown confirmed

Unigate finance director, John Worby, confirmed the companys intention to shut down Harriss abattoir at Ipswich, which has been losing money for a number of years.

But farmers supplying Harris would have their existing contracts honoured "until the time was appropriate to change them".

And though the takeover will give the company an even more dominant position in the UK industry (it already slaughters 50,000 pigs a week out of a total kill of 250,000), Mr Worby did not foresee any problems with the competition authorities. The Department of Trade and Industry confirmed this week that it would not be referring the Stocks Lovell acquisition to the Monopolies and Mergers commission, and Mr Worby expected a similar verdict for Harris.

"We operate in an EU market," he said. "With 55% of bacon in the UK imported, our competition comes from overseas."

The deal will leave Hillsdown Holdings with just two meat facilities, said managing director Peter Wright. Eight years ago it had 25 meat plants, operating as FMC, and was one of the most powerful forces in the UK meat trade. &#42