Thai company denies Birds Eye buy-out

One of Thailand’s largest agri-food business has denied reports that it is preparing a £2.5bn bid to buy European frozen food specialist Iglo Group, which includes iconic brand Birds Eye.

Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) was reported by the Sunday Times to be one of a number of bidders for the frozen food group, after Iglo’s owner, private equity firm Permira, received a number of tentative bids for the frozen food company last week (10 May). However, according to Fox Business, CPF has issued a statement on Thailand’s Stock Exchange denying that it has bid for Birds Eye.

Second-round bids for the company are expected in June.

Iglo Group recently reported strong sales figures to the year ending 31 December 2011, with pre-tax growth of 7% or €325m and total net sales growth of 1.4%, or €1.57bn. The annual statement, issued on 23 April, said that sales growth was driven by innovation and new products, as well as the poultry division across continental Europe. It said that new product roll-outs in poultry increased market share by 0.5ppts, while there was good market growth across core markets, notably in the UK and Italy. Chief executive Martin Glenn said that Iglo Group remained the natural consolidator in Europe’s fragmented frozen food market.  

The Birds Eye chicken product range, which is primarily manufactured in its factory at Lowestoft in Suffolk,  has been a key driver and the company is investing €5m in its production line. A multi-million-pound update to the Lowestoft factory is under way, with production expected to increase by around 10,000 tonnes a year and around 20 new jobs being created at the plant. The poultry is sourced from across Europe, as well as from Brazil and Thailand.

Permira bought Birds Eye Iglo from Unilever in 2006, two years after a shock profit warning prompted Unilever to take a strategic review of its European frozen food division in order to revive the business.

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