Plans to expand chocolate maker Kinnerton’s Norfolk operation do not go away with a proposed £42.7m takeover deal by a private German company, its founder said yesterday.

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Clive Beecham, who is managing director of the confectioner’s parent company Zetar and founded Kinnerton in 1978, said the deal with Zertus would see no operational changes and was nothing for staff to worry about.

Under the terms of the deal the full ownership of the company would transfer to the long-established Hamburg-based food company, which took over the Dextro Energy brand from Unilever in 2005.

Zetar was formed in January 2005 as an acquisitive food group, with its first purchase, Kinnerton, in April 2005.

Kinnerton – which is best known for obtaining licences to sell chocolate under big entertainment brands such as Hello Kitty and Disney, was established by Mr Beecham in 1978.

It moved to Norfolk in 1988 after buying one of its suppliers, Gilchris Confectionery, which had recently relocated its factory to Fakenham.

Mr Beecham said “There are really no operational changes whatsoever and nothing to worry about. There is not a single operational job at risk.”

Zetar, which hoped to raise money through its listing and from the banks for acquisitions, was hit hard by the recession in 2008 and its share price fell from approaching £6 to 90p over that period.

Mr Beecham said: “Naturally if you are a publicly quoted company, you are only as good as last year’s balance sheet. Decisions aren’t always for the long term.” He added: “As with so many businesses in Germany that are privately held, they do take a long- term view of their business and I have a feeling that is what is going to happen.”

He said that the takeover by the German company would make an investment in Fakenham a “more straightforward financial decision”.

He would not be drawn on more details of what he said was a desire rather than a firm plan for expansion.

“There will be a time to talk about that and at the moment it is a negotiation between two parties, but it is something we feel is good for the business in Fakenham. I feel there is a time which isn’t too far away. The desire we have for the expansion of the business in Fakenham does not go away.” He said the company’s main sales area was in German speaking countries and the deal could provide export opportunities in those countries.

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