Heinz continues reform with seafood sale

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Heinz

US food manufacturer Heinz has finally found a buyer for its
European seafood business, after announcing plans last August to
sell less profitable divisions and refocus on key brands.

Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking, a private equity arm of Lehman Brothers, made a bid yesterday that is now pending the approval of France's competition inquiry board, the Works Council.

Details of the deal have not been disclosed, but Lehman is thought to have offered around €450 million for the business that has major seafood processing facilities in the Seychelles and Ghana.

The sale would include key brands John West, the leading line in canned tuna and seafood in the UK, Netherlands and Ireland, and Petit Navire, the top French canned tuna range.

Other manufacturing facilities include Douarnenez, France and Peniche, Portugal.

"Our goal is to drive growth and innovation in Europe by investing in the three core categories of Ketchup, condiments and sauces; infant nutrition; and meals and snacks,"​ said Joe Jimenez, CEO of Heinz Europe.

"Heinz notified employees of the offer this morning [Wednesday]. We will work closely with the French Works Council to review the offer and no agreement will be entered into until we receive an opinion from the French Works Council,"​ he added.

Heinz expects the transaction to be completed by the end of April.

Although the seafood portfolio includes the rights to many household names, it has been steadily declining as European consumers switch preference from canned fish products to chilled alternatives.

And under present economic pressure, brought about by rising production costs and European private label threat, the company has decided to concentrate its resources on its most famous brands, such as Baked Beans and Farley's Baby Food.

It is hoped the redirection will bring European operations in line with its successful growth-boosting model in North America and Australasia.

In June the manufacturing giant announced the success of its £470m (€658m) bid for Danone's HP brand.

The transaction, completed in August, includes three factories - two in the UK and one in the US - that, together with its London head office, employ around 400 people.

Rights to HP's leading culinary lines, such as Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Daddies sauce and a perpetual licence to market the expanding Amoy Asian range, are the motivation behind the merger.

The acquisition of these famous trademarks is consistent with Heinz' plans to concentrate on big brands and large markets.

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