Boparan buys up Northern Foods shares

Marion Dakers
BOPARAN Holdings built up its stake in takeover target Northern Foods to 11.4 per cent yesterday, after several large shareholders sold their stakes for Boparan’s 73p per share offer price.

Boparan, which made its takeover bid on Friday night, said in a statement it had snapped up 22.4m shares to bring its total to 53.3m.

Boparan also confirmed that Northern shareholders registered on 7 January will receive a 1.55p interim dividend as planned by Leeds-based Northern last year.

One bank understood to have sold at least some of its stake in Northern is Lloyds Banking Group, which last week declared an interest in 6.9 per cent of the Leeds-based convenience foods maker.

Lloyds also holds a small stake in Greencore, the Irish food firm that is working to sweeten its all-share merger plans for Northern.

Evolution Securities analyst Alex Sloane said Greencore would likely need to raise substantial funds, possibly through a rights issue, to finance a rival to Boparan’s all-cash bid.

He added that Boparan is unlikely to match the cost synergies offered by Greencore, estimating £10m to £15m per year savings compared to Greencore’s £40m.

Boparan, which is run and owned by Ranjit Singh Boparan, specialises in producing chicken products for supermarkets.

Shares in Northern foods edged upwards to close at 74.25p yesterday, a gain of 0.34 per cent. Shares in Greencore also gained to close 1.58 per cent higher at €1.16.

Leeds-based Northern Foods produces Fox’s biscuits, Goodfella’s pizza and ready meals.
In November, Northern announced an all-share merger with Greencore, the maker of Weight Watchers meals, to create Essenta Foods.


RANJIT Boparan hired Goldman Sachs and Rothschild to advise on his efforts to take over Northern Foods.

Goldman Sachs partner and managing director Luca Ferrari leads the team working for Boparan at the bank. He has a history of high-flying media deals, including advising Telefonica during its £18bn takeover of mobile network O2 in 2005, but also has M&A experience in insurance and industry.

Also on the Goldman team is Nick Harper, who last year helped Betfair float on the London market and in 2006 worked for Boots during its £13bn merger with Alliance UniChem.

Gilberto Pozzi, another Goldman partner working for Boparan, worked on one of the world’s biggest mergers when Arcelor and Mittal joined forces in 2006.

The Rothschild bankers include head of hotels and leisure, Avi Goldberg, who once advised Northern Foods.

Kevin Ramsden, who currently sits on Boris Johnson’s social housing taskforce, and Premier Foods adviser Robert Plowman make up the rest of the Rothschild team.