Premier sells Branston arm in £92.5m deal

Kasmira Jefford
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PREMIER Foods yesterday said it has agreed to sell its Branston range of pickles and sauces to Japanese food manufacturer Mizkan for £92.5m, in its latest efforts to pay down debts.

The deal, which is expected to be completed early next year, includes Premier’s Bury St Edmunds factory where the sauces including Branston relish, salad cream and mayonnaise are made.

Premier said all 350 employees at the site will transfer to Mizkan, which also bought its Sarson’s and Haywards pickled onion brands for £41m earlier this year.

The FTSE 250 firm ran up large debts after a decade-long acquisition spree and has been selling off assets to meet the refinancing terms agreed with its banks in March.

The sale of the Branston brands will take Premier’s total disposals to £370m, exceeding the £330m it has to raise by 2014 as part of the refinancing deal. The funds will cut its £1.3bn debt pile by 30 per cent.

Michael Clarke, chief executive, said: “I’m delighted to have exceeded our disposal target 20 months early while at the same time delivering three successive quarters of sales growth.”

Kazuhide Matazaemon Nakano VIII, chief executive of Mizkan, said Branston was an “excellent strategic fit” with its portfolio and “adds to our solid foundation for growth in the UK.

The pickle sauce was first produced in 1829 in the village of Branston before being turned into a brand in 1922 by Crosse & Blackwell. Premier bought the foodmaker from Nestle in 2002 before selling it again in 2011.