Private firms offer takeover potential

Many privately owned meat companies are outperforming their corporate rivals, making them prime targets for takeovers.

Research carried out by industry analysis firm Plimsoll Publishing, shows that 766 of the UK's top 1,002 meat companies remain in private hands.

Their exclusivity, niche products and unique services means that their values are increasing faster than their corporate competitors.

The increasing age of owners and principals at some of these private companies adds to their takeover potential. "While many family firms have succession plans, an offer for the company at the crucial moment is often listened to sympathetically, as the new generation review their options," said Plimsoll's senior analyst David Pattison.

The report reveals past promotion of the value of a business could prove important when negotiating a selling price. If businesses have hidden their worth, they may not get the asking price they seek.

Plimsoll said the gradual change from private to corporate has both benefits and disadvantages for the meat industry. While the with-drawal of families means the

industry will lose the steady corporate stewardship and entrepreneurial drive that has been its cornerstone for the past 60 years, new professional owners, despite bringing more debt and risk, may offer more focus and drive.