Poultry business Crown Chicken snapped up by pork giant Cranswick in £40m deal

Pork producer Cranswick has flown further into the poultry market with the acquisition of north Suffolk-based Crown Chicken in a £40m deal.

Hull-based Cranswick, which employs about 1,000 in the Watton area, snapped up family-owned CCL Holdings and its subsidiary Crown Chicken in a bid to extend its reach outside the pig market.

Crown, based in Weybread, breeds, rears and processes fresh chicken for supply across grocery retail, food service, wholesale and manufacturing and had a turnover of £83.8m for the year ending December 31, 2015.

The EDP Top100 firm, which employs 400 people, also has a milling operation which supplies feed to pig and poultry businesses across East Anglia, including Cranswick.

It comes after Cranswick, also an EDP Top100 firm, made its first

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foray into poultry with the acquisition of Hull-based premium cooked chicken producer Benson Park in 2014.

Cranswick chief executive Adam Couch said there would be further investment in Crown, and no job losses from the acquisition.

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'It is in keeping with the strategy we are pressing ahead with, to become a fully-integrated poultry-producing business producing its own feed,' he said. 'We had a very clear two-pronged strategy about three years ago. One is expanding into alternative proteins, and the other is geographical expansion.'

And he highlighted further expansion plans, adding: 'There are opportunities in the near-continent and value-added businesses.'

The deal will see Crown's chairman David Thacker retire from the business, while mill director Nigel Armes and agricultural director Matthew Ward will stay on at the firm.

Last year, Cranswick recorded revenues of £1bn and pre-tax profits of £52.8m to March 31 2015.

Craig Hodgson, partner and head of the food and beverage sector at law firm Mills & Reeve, said: 'Historically what Cranswick has tended to do is invest in businesses it has acquired. There is capacity to grow the Crown facility.'

Grant Thornton's central and east of England corporate finance team advised Crown's shareholders.

Darren Bear, a partner at Grant Thornton who led the deal, added: 'Last year the total deal volume and disclosed deal value in the UK food and beverage sector reached the highest level for five years. This positive trend is clearly reflected in the Eastern region which is home to many attractive and ambitious food and drink companies looking to fulfil their strategic ambitions.'

Sophie Jourdier, analyst at Liberum, said the deal 'gives Cranswick a foothold to expand into poultry processing, adding another leg to the company's growth outlook beyond its market share gains and rising exports in pork'.

Are you planning an acquisition? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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