Princes buys canned foods brands

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Princes secured a licence to make products under the Branston and Batchelors brands

Household brands Crosse & Blackwell and Fray Bentos have been snapped up by food and drinks group Princes in a deal worth £182 million.

Their acquisition forms part of an agreement with Premier Foods for its canned grocery operation, including factories at Long Sutton in Lincolnshire and Wisbech in Cambridgeshire which employ more than 1,000 people.

Liverpool-based Princes has also secured a long-term licence to make products such as baked beans and pasta in cans under the Branston and Batchelors brands.

The sale, which is subject to a number of conditions, comes less than a month after Premier offloaded its meat-free business Quorn for £205 million in a drive to lower its debt mountain, which stood at £1.4 billion in June. It will also enable the company to focus on key brands such as Hovis and Mr Kipling.

Princes, which has grown from being an importer of canned fish into a supplier of products ranging from fruit juice and canned meat to microwave meals and sandwich spreads, will have annual revenues of £1.5 billion following the deal. It will also have 13 production sites and a 4,500-strong workforce.

As well as Crosse & Blackwell and Fray Bentos, Premier is also selling the brands Farrows and Smedley’s.

Premier’s East Anglian canned grocery operation achieved sales in the region of £334 million and underlying earnings of £32 million in 2010.

The disposal excludes Premier Foods’ Ambrosia branded canned desserts operations in Lifton, Devon, which is being retained.

Premier’s chief executive, Robert Schofield, said: “Selling the business simplifies our operations and allows us to concentrate our efforts on our current portfolio of great British brands.”

The deal also improves Premier’s earnings to debt ratio – a key measure in the City – after an acquisition spree in recent years that has included Hovis owner RHM and Campbell’s Soup in the UK and Ireland.

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