Fenland canning factory merger safe after Fray Bentos sale

The sale of two canning factories in the Fens to food giant Princes will not be referred to the Competition Commission after it has agreed to sell another brand.

Baxters Food Group will buy the Fray Bentos brand from Princes.

Earlier this year Princes bought canning operations at Wisbech and Long Sutton from Premier Foods for �182m, but concerns were raised by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) that the sale would lead to a near monopoly of canned pies in the UK.

In a statement today the OFT said Princes Ltd had addressed the competition concerns with the sale and the merger would not now be referred to the Competition Commission.

Amelia Fletcher, chief economist at the OFT, said: 'This merger would have led to a near monopoly in the provision of canned pies in the UK. However, the sale of the Fray Bentos brand to Baxters will restore pre-merger levels of competition for the benefit of consumers. The OFT believes that Baxters, with its extensive experience in the sector, is a suitable purchaser for the business.'

The deal between Premier Foods and Princes saw about 1,000 workers at the two factories transfer under their usual pay and conditions.

The factories make a variety of branded and non-branded canned grocery products, including baked beans, pasta, vegetables, soup, meat and fruit.

Most Read

Princes, which has grown from being an importer of canned fish into a supplier of products ranging from fruit juice and canned meat to microwave meals and sandwich spreads, traces its roots to the 1880s, It was bought in the late 1980s by the Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi, which spans hotels to motor manufacturing, food production to mining operations across the globe.

Princes struck an agreement with the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) in the wake of the deal and until a buyer for Fray Bentos was found, the business was run independently from its parent, Princes.