THE battle to buy Fox’s biscuits firm Northern Foods continued to heat up – after the UK’s biggest sandwich maker again refused to rule out a bid.
Dublin-based Greencore said it was still considering its response to a rival £342m offer from the owner of the Harry Ramsden’s fish restaurants.
That deal, which was struck in January, scuppered Greencore’s hopes of a merger with Northern.
It has been reported that Greencore, which makes own-label sandwiches and other chilled convenience food for some of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains, is working on a possible higher offer backed by private equity.
Leeds-based Northern, which includes Fox’s Biscuits and Goodfella’s pizza among its products, agreed a deal with Greencore before switching sides to Boparan, which also owns the Two Sisters chicken processing business.
Boparan wants to combine Northern with its other food businesses to create a major player in the industry with £2bn of annual sales.
Boparan said on Wednesday that it now holds or has agreed to acquire 34.4% of Northern Foods’ shares after 23% of Northern’s shareholders accepted the offer.
A statement by Greencore said: “Greencore confirms it is still considering its options in relation to Northern Foods and a further announcement will be made in due course.”
Northern has 14 sites in the UK and employs 9,000 people.
Greencore, which supplies ready meals and convenience food, has about 7,000 staff and 17 manufacturing facilities in the UK, including a large sandwich-making site near Worksop in Nottinghamshire.
Boparan has 12 manufacturing sites in the UK and eight in Europe, with about 6,000 employees.