Valeo to take over Jacob Fruitfield in €300m sales bid
Plan to link up several popular food brands
TALLAGHT-based biscuit maker Jacob Fruitfield, which makes Fig Rolls, Kimberley and Mikado biscuits, is expected to be bought by Valeo Foods, which makes Squeez juices and Batchelors baked beans, in a move that could create a company with sales of €300m.
Talks to bring some the best known brands on Irish supermarket shelves under one umbrella been going on for months and Valeo is expected to take over Jacob Fruitfield under the deal. Neither company was available for comment yesterday.
The food industry is regularly convulsed by mergers and de-mergers.
Both Jacob Fruitfield and Valeo were formerly owned by investment firms, which bought assets from food companies seeking to reduce their borrowings during the past decade. However, any takeover would have to be approved by the Competition Authority, analysts said.
Jacob Fruitfield, which also owns brands such as Silvermints and Chef ketchup, was formed in 2004 following the merger of brands bought from Nestle in 2002 and Danone in 2004.
Shareholders include Michael Carey, Lioncourt Capital and chief executive Seamus Kearney. Lioncourt Capital belongs to prominent businessmen including former 'Kilkenny People' owner John Kerry Keane, former AIB chairman Dan O'Connor and Simon Pratt of Avoca Handweavers.
Jacob Fruitfield, which sells its brands in 45 countries, employs around 100 people today compared to 430 people seven years ago after shifting production overseas in a move that drew fierce criticism at the time.
Valeo was created less than a year ago by London-based private equity company CapVest.
The private equity company merged Batchelors, which had belonged to the Cork-based Barry's Tea, with Origin Foods -- which owned the Odlums and Shamrock brands -- and was sold by listed agri-company Origin Enterprises, which now owns a 45pc stake in Valeo. It employs around 475 people.
Although CapVest is based in Pall Mall in London, it has a long involvement in Irish projects, including Dublin's Mater Private Hospital, where it owns a 50pc stake.
The company was co-founded by Cavan-born Seamus Fitzpatrick in 1999 and raised €50m from high-rolling Irish investors for a new €500m buyout fund in 2007.
Following the creation of Valeo last September, Mr Fitzpatrick signalled that he was interested in further expansion in the Irish market.
"The opportunity to create Valeo Foods and bring together a portfolio of some of Ireland's most iconic and instantly recognisable consumer brands is the realisation of the first stage in a clear strategy to grow Valeo's footprint in the food sector," he said at the time.