Italian-owned agro-industrial business Granarolo has acquired Midland Food Group, a chilled, ambient and frozen food distributor in the UK. The company operates from two sites: a manufacturing and packaging warehouse in Willenhall and a strategic distribution hub in Basingstoke. As well as a dairy segment accounting for 30% of its sales, Midland Food Group has a manufacturing arm that produces cooked meats, pasties and sandwich fillings that it distributes via a fleet of 50 vehicles. The company also operates an e-commerce portal called iDeli. Midland Food Group has an expected turnover of £62m and employs 244 people.
Phoenix Group has announced that it is to acquire the majority of Standard Life Assurance Limited and Vebnet Limited together for £2.9bn, as well as expanding its strategic partnership with Standard Life Aberdeen. Altogether, the deal encompasses all of SLA’s UK and European life insurance business, leaving Standard Life’s retail platforms and advice business intact. The deal makes Phoenix the preeminent closed life fund consolidator in Europe, giving the enlarged group £240bn in legacy assets and 10.4 million policyholders. The acquisition is expected to create £5.5bn of additional aggregate cashflows, £1bn of which will be earned between 2018 and 2022. The news extends a trend of consolidation in the sector that has seen Abbey Life, AXA Sunlife and Key Retirement Group all join Phoenix in the last few years. This latest move puts the group on the cusp of the FTSE100.
Consumer electronics retailer Maplin has gone into administration, raising the prospect of 217 store closures and job losses for 2,335 people. The business has faced a slump in the pound, weak consumer confidence and a withdrawal of credit insurance which has made it ‘impossible’ to raise capital, according to CEO Graham Harris. Maplin will continue to trade as normal while it attempts to find a buyer.
Toys “R” Us has failed to find a buyer and administrators have been appointed to oversee ‘an orderly wind-down’ of the retailer’s operations. Toys “R” Us has recently struggled with the operating costs of its large warehouse-style stores, and after poor trading over Christmas found itself unable to pay a £15m tax bill. The company has been in trouble for a while, announcing plans in December to close 26 of its UK outlets to focus on smaller, more interactive stores and its website. This latest development puts 3,200 jobs at risk. The company’s 105 UK stores are to remain open until further notice.
American media giant Comcast has swooped in with a £22.1bn offer for Sky, trumping 21st Century Fox’s protracted takeover bid for the European broadcaster. Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox had already agreed an £18.5bn deal to buy the 61% of Sky it doesn’t already own. Comcast’s proposal represents a premium of 16% on Fox’s offer.
Following news of its £39bn takeover by Disney, Fox insisted that it would continue to pursue its takeover of Sky despite referral to the Competition and Markets Authority. The CMA found in January that the Fox deal would not be in the public interest, to which Fox responded by assuring that Sky News would continue to run for 10 years with a fully independent board. The CMA is to send a final report to culture secretary Matt Hancock by 1 May. Comcast has emphasised its commitment to ‘high broadcasting standards and news impartiality in the UK’ in the announcement of its bid.
Comcast is a US international media and telecommunications giant which owns cable TV company NBCUniversal as well as film giant Universal Pictures. Comcast will use the deal as a platform for expansion in Europe, increasing international revenues from 9% to 25%. Earlier this month, Sky won the lion’s share of Premier League TV rights for the football seasons between 2019 and 2022. Commentators have speculated that Comcast’s bid has also been positioned to derail the Fox-Disney merger, which includes Sky.
Breedon has confirmed that it is in talks to acquire Irish construction group Lagan. Breedon is the UK’s largest independent construction materials group, with more than 750m tonnes of mineral reserves and a workforce of 2,300 people. Lagan announced this week that it is placing four of its companies into administration, Lagan Construction Group Holdings Limited, Lagan Construction Group Limited, Lagan Building Contractors Limited and Lagan Water Limited, putting the jobs of 200 people at risk. Lagan’s Civils and Building divisions have been affected by a number of factors including delays in the commencement of new projects and protracted contractual disputes. It is assumed Breedon would acquire Lagan’s materials business; Lagan Construction is not thought to be a part of the proposed deal.
Morrisons has announced that is has acquired Chippindale Foods, a leading supplier of free range eggs. The deal enables Morrisons to make more of its own fresh food more competitively, and brings forward the date at which all Morrisons eggs will come from non-caged hens from its current target of 2025. Morrisons is already the largest supermarket customer for British farmers and makes most of its own fresh food in its 17 manufacturing sites and 491 stores.
Swiss domain monetisation business Zonat has bought DI, operating as hosting.co.uk and hosting.uk. Founded in 2012, DI is a well-rated webhosting provider and owner of a portfolio of valuable domains. Zonat hopes to capitalise on the acquisition with the launch of a site builder in the near future, complementing its large existing range of webhosting products.
Mercia Fund Managers has backed a £2m management buyout at risk management consultancy ProAktive Risk Group. Based in Doncaster, ProAktive is a commercial insurance broker that also provides consultancy services covering business continuity planning, HR, health and safety and fleet risk management. The deal gives control of the business to its long-serving management team led by Andy Morley and Ian Laycock.
RBS-backed Bolton business Telesis has acquired Manchester’s Digital Telecom Airtime. The deal lifts the company’s turnover over £9m and its workforce to 52 people. Telesis offers a range of comms solutions including phone systems, calls and lines, mobile services, broadband, call recording, CCTV, VoIP, connectivity and engineering services to businesses in the North West. The company is planning two more acquisitions in 2018 to take revenues past £10m.