Sale of UK poultry giant dismissed by owners, amid buyout speculation

One of the largest poultry producers in Europe is rumoured to be for sale, despite assurances from its owners that it isn’t.

Bernard Matthews, one of Europe’s largest turkey producers, is rumoured to be for sale and the 2 Sisters food group is reported to be interested in the company. The 2 Sisters group was reported to be in the process of buying Northern Ireland meat company Dunbia earlier this year, but any deal has yet to be finalised.

Bernard Matthews was founded in 1950 and rears more than 7m turkeys a year at three farms in Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Suffolk.

However, turnover at the firm dropped to £276.8m in 2015, down from £306.8m in 2014, a drop of £30m.

One of Bernard Matthew’s farms was infected by the bird flu virus in 2007 which resulted in the introduction of segregation zones and a large cull of turkeys to prevent the spread of the disease.

Speculation over the company’s future was sparked last month when Rutland Partners, who invested in the firm in 2013, appointed PriceWaterhouseCoopers to look for possible buyers.

The rumoured front runners in the sale are the 2 Sisters food group, while Moy Park and Faccenda are also reported to be interested.

Bernard Matthews breeds and rears both indoor and free range turkeys on its farms and also has poultry production operations in Germany and Hungary.

It employs over 1,850 workers across Norfolk and Suffolk producing branded and own-label poultry products for the UK’s leading grocery retailers and food-service operators.

The news of a possible sale follows the announcement that the turkey producing firm would cut 30 jobs at its Norfolk and Suffolk sites last April.

The poultry producer had a memorable series of ‘Bootiful’ adverts, while their ‘Turkey Twizzlers’ product caused controversy in January 2005.

The products was singled out for particular criticism by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in his television series Jamie’s School Dinners.

Bernard Matthews ceased the production of the product to avoid any further criticism and negative press coverage.

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