25 February 2000
New owner for Malton Bacon?
By Peter Crichton
SIGNS are emerging of some major changes among some of the largest players in the pigmeat processing sector.
Candover, a quoted venture capital firm, is thought to be putting together a bid for Unigate, owners of Malton Bacon – the UKs largest live pig buyer.
Unigate shares have fallen over 30% in the past 12 months.
The bid, which would include company debt last quoted at 220 million in September, would probably receive the support of Unigate institutional investors.
With Unigate share prices under performing the FTSE All Share Index by almost 40% over the past year it has become vulnerable to outside bidders.
If Candover buy Unigate it is not yet known what would happen to Malton, but there is speculation that this would be sold off separately.
The Malton-owned former Hargraves Spalding meat plant still remains closed and could figure as part of the overall package.
Grampian Foods has announced job cuts at its key Suffolk pigmeat plant in Haverhill due to lack of profitability .
It follows pressure from imports and the shrinking size of the UK pig herd.
Irish based Glanbia has also shaken the meat trade by announcing that it plans to sell its meat business and concentrate on producing milk and cheese.
It is not yet clear if this announcement will also include its UK based slaughter plants.
Sources close to the company believe it would be unlikely for Glanbia to sell its two Irish pigmeat factories and retain those in the UK.