Ex Canterbury boss buys plants

THE FORMER chief executive of Canterbury Foods has bought up all but one of the sausage-to-burger group's processing facilities, following its demise into administration.

Paul Ainsworth acquired three of the four factories under his new Medway Foods banner. Administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which was called in on 3 January, expect the remaining site to be sold off shortly. PwC joint adminstrator Ian Green said he was very pleased to announce the sale of the processing plants to Ainsworth, adding: "The deal provides a seamless transfer of ownership, thereby protecting the interests of customers and safeguarding the continued employment of over 200 people.

"I now hope to be able to realise promptly the remaining assets of the

Group, including the cooked meat products business located at Yate, near


Ainsworth reportedly paid less than £7 million for the assets, and received funding from his new financier GE Capital for the venture. The sell-off reduced Canterbury Foods debt with Barclays Bank to £15 million, but shareholders and investors may not be paid for the outstanding amount as limited assets remain.

AIM-listed Canterbury, whose shares were frozen at 1p early lastweek, saw profits plummet as demand for its sausages and beefburgers declined. It was hit by a £2.7 million sales drop in the first half of last year, reflecting the industry-wide poor performance of the European frozen foods sector for higher fat meat convenience products. Last month Canterbury announced the sale of its meat products business to J & J Tranfield for £4.5 million, subject to shareholder approval.