Kerry, which produces food ingredients, flavours and consumer foods, said the purchase of Noon Group is part of a major expansion of itschilled ready meals business in the UK.
Kerry says the ethnic sub-category is a fast growing premium sector in the UK chilled ready meals market. The UK chilled ready meals market is valued at £1.4bn and has annual growth rates ofbetween five to seven per cent a year, according to the company.
"In particular the premium sub category of this dynamic UK market sector is achieving high double digit growth rates in response to strongly favourable consumer trends towards increasedconvenience, premium quality products and new taste experiences," the group's chief executive, Hugh Friel.
The purchase will also strengthen Kerry's position in the branded foods category. The company already owns Mattesons, Denny, Dawn and Ballyfree.
Noon, which specialises in Indian, Oriental, Thai chilled ready meals, snacks and accompaniments, supplies a number of major retailers in the UK. The company has production facilities in south-westLondon.
Kerry was taken private by a buyout group in 2001 and is now being sold by a private equity group.
Kerry had a turnover of 4.1bn in 2004, with 66 per cent of its sales in Europe, 27 per cent in the Americas and seven per cent in the Asia-Pacific region.
The company reported a total sales growth of 11.8 per cent after acquisitions, a like-for-like sales growth of 4.2 per cent. Operating profit increased by 13 per cent to €349m, reflectinglike-for-like growth of seven per cent.
The company increased its operating margin in 2004 to 8.5 per cent from 8.4 per cent. It spent €712m in 2004 on acquisitions of various brands as it diversifies into food processing.