Iconic poultry business Bernard Matthews has been bought by the Boparan Private Office – the investment company of poultry tycoon Ranjit Singh, owner of the 2 Sisters Food Group – securing around 2,000 jobs.
The acquisition ends months of speculation since Bernard Matthews’ owners, Rutland Partners, appointed PriceWaterhouse Coopers in June to look for possible buyers.
“This acquisition will create a strong platform for future growth and ensures Bernard Matthews is well positioned to develop into a sustainable, growing business,” said a Boparan spokesman.
“We intend to respect and build on the 66-year heritage of a much-loved British brand. We have a proven track record in turning around businesses and we aim to make Bernard Matthews great again.”
The spokesman added that, without Boparan’s intervention, the company would probably have gone bust.
Given that Bernard Matthews supplies about 40% of the turkeys consumed at Christmas, the acquisition ensured that British consumers would still have a ready supply of turkeys for their festive dinners.
The sale includes production and processing operations in Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Hungary. Around 2,000 employees and agency staff have transferred to the new owners and the group continues to trade as normal.
Trade union Unite gave the takeover a “cautious welcome”. “However, in takeover situations, there are always matters that need to be clarified,” said regional officer Steve Harley.
“Unite is meeting the company today where searching questions will be asked on future employment, pay, and terms and conditions.
“We will also be asking about the status of the pension scheme under new owners.”
It is understood that Boparan Private Office offered to take on the pension scheme, which serves around 725 former employees and has a £16m deficit, as part of the takeover deal.
But this is now being transferred to the government-backed Pension Protection Fund, which could result in lower pensions for scheme members.
The spokesman would not reveal what Boparan paid for the company, other than to say the sum was “substantial”.
Rutland acquired a majority shareholding in Bernard Matthews in 2013 for £25m and last year injected a further £10m of capital into the firm.
Despite this, turnover has slid from £346m in 2012-13 to £277m in 2014-15.
Cost cutting, rebranding and renewable energy investments have not been enough to allow the firm to turn a profit over that period, with latest accounts reporting an £860,000 loss before exceptional items.