Vion sale: management buyout deal agreed

Vion's plant at Brydock, near Turriff
Image caption Vion employs about 115 people at Brydock, near Turriff

Dutch-based food producer Vion has reached an agreement for a management buyout of its UK pork operations.

The firm said the deal would secure about 4,000 jobs across the UK.

The buyout has been, led by Seamus Carr, the managing director of Vion's Pork Business Unit, backed by UK private equity firm Endless.

Vion announced last month it wanted to sell its entire UK food operation, which is headquartered in Livingston and employs 13,000 people at 38 sites.

The move was part of a strategy to focus on its core food activities in the Netherlands and Germany.

Vion said discussions were ongoing with a number of prospective purchasers for its other UK business units for poultry and red meat.

The firm recently began the closure of the Hall's of Broxburn meat processing plant in West Lothian, which is due to close by February with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

Vion's UK pork facilities are located in Wiveliscombe, Malton, Haverhill, Scunthorpe, Hull, Stoke and Enfield in England, at Cookstown in Northern Ireland and the pig farming and feed mill operation in Scotland at Brydock, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire, which employs some 115 people.

In addition, Vion operates the McGees butchers business in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Carr, who will be managing director of the new company said: "Vion's decision to sell its UK business naturally caused a degree of uncertainty amongst staff, suppliers and customers.

"Therefore, I'm very pleased that we have quickly been able to agree a deal for the pork business which secures the future for our staff, our suppliers and gives our customers a seamless transition.

"Our ambitions for the new business are firstly to maintain the excellent levels of service and product quality which have helped us secure orders from all the major supermarkets and then to build upon the opportunities in the marketplace to grow the business."

Peter Barr, chairman of Vion UK, welcomed the management buyout.

He said: "When we announced our intention to sell, we highlighted the viability of the UK businesses and the strong interest from prospective purchasers.

"The swiftness with which we've been able to agree a deal with the management team of the pork business unit, which knows the company inside-out, underlines our confidence in the sales process.

"This is the very best outcome and I am sure the response from everyone involved, from our farmers and suppliers, to our employees and customers, will be extremely positive.

"We will now be focussing our attentions on securing the sales of our remaining poultry and red meat operations in the UK, which employ around 8,000 people. Both businesses remain profitable and cash-generative and are generating significant interest from prospective purchasers."

John Gorle, of the Usdaw union, said "Whilst we welcome the news, we will be seeking an urgent meeting with the new owners in order that we can fully understand the short- to medium-term business strategy and receive assurances on jobs and the future of the business."

Vion entered the UK in the late 1990s with the acquisition of Key Country Foods, followed by Tranfield and subsequently Grampian Country Food Group in 2008, supplying beef, lamb, pork and chicken products to a broad range of customers across the food retailing, food manufacturing and food service sectors.

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