Harry Ramsden’s owner Ranjit Singh Boparan has been granted a two-hour extension on his deadline to bid for Goodfella’s pizza-maker Northern Foods.
Mr Boparan was issued with a “put up or shut up” order by the Takeover Panel, which gave him until 5pm on Friday to make a bid for the Leeds-based food manufacturer but five minutes before the deadline passed, the panel granted him an extension until 7pm.
The news means that Mr Boparan could still derail Northern’s proposed merger with Britain’s biggest sandwich-maker Greencore to form Essenta Foods with combined annual sales of £1.7 billion.
Northern, which also makes Fox’s Biscuits, announced in November that it planned to merge with Greencore in a move that the companies claimed would allow them to find £40 million a year of cost savings.
But Mr Boparan, who owns Two Sisters which supplies chicken to the supermarkets, announced his intention to make a counter-offer.
Mr Boparan made it clear that he was opposed to the merger and doubted it would produce as many cost savings as the management predicted, but he has yet to say how much he would offer for the company.
His company, Boparan Holdings, has been in talks with Northern’s management who were legally obliged to show him all the documentation that they have made available to Greencore as part of the merger.
Northern’s current market capitalisation is £294 million but brokers think he would need to table a bid of at least £380 million.
Mr Boparan holds a 6.6% stake in Northern through his firm Boparan Holdings. Northern, one of the biggest suppliers of own-label products in the UK, makes pies, sandwiches, salads, puddings and ready meals from sites including the Gunstones Bakery near Sheffield and its Fox’s biscuits factory near Preston.
Bromwich-based Two Sisters specialises in supplying raw chicken and prepared chicken products, with brands including Buxted Original and The Devonshire Red. It has 11 factories in the UK, seven in Holland and one in Poland, employing a total of 7,000 people. The group’s most recent earnings totalled £46 million on sales of £739 million.