Shareholders pave the way for ultimate surf and turf as Seachill buy-out is blessed

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 6 Nov 2017

HILTON Food Group shareholders have backed the company's buy-out of Grimsby's Icelandic Seachill in overwhelming fashion.

The vote was taken at a meeting held this morning (Monday, November 6), and paves the way for the £80.8 million deal to complete tomorrow as planned. 

More than 54 million votes were in favour, with just 2,229 against, carrying the resolution through with 99.9 per cent backing. 

Approval was also given to the issue of a further seven million shares to part-fund the acquisition, with £55.9 million raised on the condition it would be passed when the agreement was announced last month. 

The deal will see the 1,400-employee company brought back into British hands, with the FTSE-listed Cambridgeshire-based firm promising to "develop state-of-the-art facilities in the assembling, packing and distributing of fish products, which will deliver even higher quality and better value to the consumer".

Shares in Hilton are up 11 per cent since the deal was agreed on October 18. 

Neil George, Hilton’s company secretary, completed the formalities immediately after the 10am meeting. In a statement to investors, he said: “Hilton Food Group is pleased to announce that all resolutions proposed to shareholders at its general meeting held today were duly passed on a show of hands.

“The first resolution approves the acquisition by the company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Hilton Foods Limited, of the entire issued share capital of Icelandic Group UK Limited.  

“The second resolution authorises the directors of the company to allot new ordinary shares.”

Investor owners of Icelandic Group announced the intention to sell in the spring, having divested Far East and European interests in recent years. 

The meat specialist said it was a “strategically and financially compelling transaction” and an “attractive growth opportunity and entry into the processing and supply of fish in the UK”. 

The Seachill management team is staying in place, headed by Simon Smith. 

It comes as Made in Chelsea star and fashion house owner Oliver Proudlock began his 'work' with the company's The Saucy Fish Co brand.

Taking to Twitter, having recently returned from Las Vegas, Proudlock tweeted ‘Back to the health. Salmon with chilli, lime & ginger dressing. Easy to cook, healthy & delicious. YEAH BABY!’ - posting a picture of him topless at a table with a double portion of the flagship product from Icelandic Seachill – complete with packaging. 

Proudlock is followed by more than 400,000 people, and is on board as the brand significantly invests in multi-channel marketing after returning to Tesco stores last week.

The Saucy Fish Co launched in 2010, entering into the frozen category in January this year, initially with Sainsbury's. The return to Tesco, where it originally began, has been a huge boost, with Hilton also a key supplier, having been set up to serve the giant, as Icelandic Seachill was.  

Saucy's exports have also seen a significant lift, with a big push on listings in the US and Canada over the past year, while Icelandic Seachill's own label supply into Tesco has also been robust. It won a major contract for fishcake supply for the UK's leading supermarket, complementing the chilled work and other coated elements undertaken.

Financial performance has reflected the hard work, and is the culmination of a major reorganisation that saw the Coldwater and Seachill businesses unified, with plants on South Humberside Industrial Estate and Great Grimsby Business Park now under the same banner. A third operation, also on South Humberside Industrial Estate, has been sold on. 

Last year saw operating profits up 41 per cent to £5.5 million, with sales up 7 per cent to £266.3 million. It followed 2015's pivotal year in which a £3 million operating loss was converted into a £4.3 million profit.

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