The UK’s largest meat producer Vion UK has announced it is to sell off its UK operations to focus on business in Europe.
An announcement made yesterday confirmed months of speculation about the company’s future in the UK. In the past couple of years, Vion UK has had several serious setbacks, most recent of which was the announcement to close its Hall’s of Broxburn site in Scotland.
Talk of the sell-off came after the UK newspaper The Sunday Times claimed at the weekend that the processing giant had contracted Rothschild to manage the sale.
The statement, released yesterday, said that Vion had “embarked on a process to sell its UK food businesses to concentrate on its core markets in the Netherlands and Germany and the development of its global ingredients business”.
Vion UK chairman Peter Barr said: “Working with our advisors Rabobank/Rothschild, we have already started detailed discussions with a number of interested parties, including management, regarding the acquisition of the various parts of the UK business and these are progressing well.
“The level of interest in the businesses has been strong and we hope to be in a position in the near future to give further details about the progress made.
“The sale process will be completed in a smooth and orderly fashion to ensure business continuity for our employees, agricultural and other suppliers and our customers.”
Also noted in the statement was the company’s confidence that a buyer would be found.
Vion employs around 13,000 people across several sites in the UK and plans to sell its UK pork, red meat and poultry business units as ongoing viable businesses.
It was in the late 1990s that Vion ventured into the UK market, with the acquisition of Key Country Foods. However, the company increased its presence and purchased the Grampian Food Group in 2008.
Vion’s UK head office is in Livingston where around 50 people are employed, the company also employs 13,000 people at 38 other sites across the UK.
The company’s Hall’s of Broxburn site in West Lothian, Scotland was announced to close last month and will cease production this February.
National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) President, Nigel Miller said: “This news will come as a real shock to Vion UK’s employees, suppliers and customers.
“We shall have to wait for more details about the nature and timing of Vion’s withdrawal from the UK and its plans to do so with the minimum of disruption to its operations here. It is to be hoped that Vion UK’s sites can be sold as successful going concerns, protecting jobs and production.
“Vion has a diverse operation in the UK, encompassing chicken and red meat in Scotland. The Scottish food and farming sector is still getting to grips with the firm’s decision this summer to close its Broxburn operation.
“The McIntosh Donald plant at Portlethen is one of the big five Scottish plants focusing specifically on the Scotch brand and is embedded in Scottish agriculture’s feeding heartland. Hundreds of Scottish farmers send significant numbers of top quality cattle to this plant and it is crucial that we safeguard it.
“The undoubted strength of the Scotch meat brand is our great asset; we have the capacity to produce a premium product and have a willing, expanding market at home and abroad for Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork. It is imperative that we maintain the processing capacity that is integral to the meat sector’s success.”