Britain’s Indian-origin ‘chicken king’, whose poultry operations is battling a hygiene scandal at one of its factories, is reportedly looking at expanding his biscuit empire.
According to a PTI report: Ranjit Singh Boparan, who owns ‘2 Sisters Food Group’ the biggest supplier of poultry to supermarkets in the UK is in talks to merge his Fox’s Biscuits brand with Burton’s Foods and then listing the enlarged entity on the London Stock Exchange, according to ‘Sky News’.
A bigger company, which could have a market capitalisation of more than 400 million pounds (US $522 million), would have a UK market share of 20 per cent and compete with the likes of Turkish-owned United Biscuits.
Boparan and Burton’s, owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, have refused to respond to “speculation” but discussions between the shareholders of both the companies are said to have been underway for months.
In January, Boparan Holdings, the vehicle which owns Fox’s, said it had been approached about a takeover of Fox’s, but the party involved was understood to be a consortium of bond funds rather than Burton’s or another food manufacturer.
The latest proposed merger talks between Fox’s and Burton’s pre-date a joint ‘Guardian’ and ITV News investigation into alleged regulatory breaches at a chicken processing plant in West Bromwich owned by Boparan’s 2 Sisters Food Group.
The allegations led to the UK’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken suspending production at the plant, where undercover footage showed workers changing the slaughter dates of poultry.
As reported by PTI: “The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has been carrying out investigations at Site D on a daily basis since the allegations were first made public,” 2 Sisters said.
“We are continuing to support our colleagues during our retraining period and we remain committed to ensuring that we operate to the highest standards of hygiene and food safety, and we act with honesty and integrity at all times,” it said.
The FSA said it had not found any threats to public health at the West Bromwich plant but it had identified issues that required “management attention”.
The investigation is centred on food hygiene and labelling.
“Consumers deserve food they can trust and can be reassured that we take allegations of poor practice very seriously,” said FSA chair Heather Hancock was quoted by PTI as saying.
“Although our initial inspection (of the West Bromwich site) found no risk to public health, we are broadening our investigations until we are satisfied that this is truly the case,” she was further quoted by PTI as saying.
The 2 Sisters Food Group earlier this week said that it has suspended poultry processing operations at a plant accused of serious safety breaches.
It said that the action had been taken as a temporary measure at its West Bromwich factory in the West Midlands region of England to retrain staff on hygiene standards.