Could 2 Sisters add Icelandic Seachill to the family?

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 9 May 2017

COULD a British buyer emerge for Icelandic Seachill? 

Owner of Five Star Fish in Grimsby, and large poultry operations in Scunthorpe and northern Lincolnshire, 2 Sisters Group, is being tipped as another potential suitor, though sources close to the deal have said that is an unlikely outcome.

A high level of interest has been confirmed, with speculation of potential purchasers spreading from North America to the Far East. Certain Canadian and Japanese firms are known to be on the acquisition trail, and the exchange rate would be favourable to overseas investment if a deal is structured in sterling, though with Icelandic ownership, it may well be krona. 

Of the enthusiasm since the divestment proposal was made public last month, quickly after Belgian operations went the way of Far East processing, a spokesperson for Icelandic Seachill said: "It is very early days in the process and there has been a very high level of interest.”

While steeped in meat, 2 Sisters has widened operations from its West Midlands launch. Owned by Rich List regular Ranjit Boparan, he not only has the own label processing sites, which would have a strong position with the likes of Tesco - said to hold key sway when it comes to deal-making as the biggest customer of Icelandic - but also brands such as Goodfella’s Pizzas, Harry Ramsden’s, Fishworks and Fox Biscuits.

They would ensure The Saucy Fish Co also has boardroom understanding without going to a business with no brand management expertise.

2 Sisters bought Five Star - founded by Grimsby Town FC chairman John Fenty - in 2010, and now employs nearly 2,000 people in northern Lincolnshire. Such a geographical cluster may also prove tempting, with Five Star and Icelandic Seachill neighbours on Great Grimsby Business Park.

Ironically, Five Star, which also has fish processing interests in Cumbria, benefited the most from the shake up in Marks and Spencer contracts that saw Icelandic stripped of that work, as announced last year. Could a move for Icelandic see all operations then concentrated in Grimsby, with this area the only cluster in the UK to be proven to be expanding

Whatever happens, industry chiefs in the region will be keen to see strong, focused management maintained, with seafood being such a volatile industry when it comes to supply, price, quality and currency. Previous attempts by others to manage remotely have failed, though hanging on to the top team led by Simon Smith looks highly likely from the comments being made. 

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