Cranswick buys East Anglian poultry business

Cranswick plc has acquired the whole of the issued share capital of CCL Holdings Limited and its 100%-owned subsidiary Crown Chicken Limited (Crown) from the Thacker family and management. The cash consideration was £40 million, funded from existing bank facilities.

Crown is a leading integrated poultry producer based in East Anglia. It breeds, rears and processes fresh chicken for supply into a broad customer base across grocery retail, food service, wholesale and manufacturing channels.

Crown also has a well-invested and efficient milling operation that satisfies all of the business’ own feed requirements as well as supplying feed to other pig and poultry producers in the region.

Crown’s revenue for the year ended December 31, 2015, was £83.8 million and adjusted EBITDA was £6.6 million. The adjusted gross assets of Crown on the same date were £28.4 million.

Crown employs a total work force of approximately 400 across its operations. The transaction is expected to be modestly earnings enhancing in the current financial year.

Crown’s mill director, Nigel Armes, and agricultural director, Matthew Ward, will remain with the business under Cranswick’s ownership. The current chairman of Crown, David Thacker, has retired from the business.

Cranswick chief executive Adam Couch said Crown was a well-respected operator in the UK poultry sector.

“This represents an excellent opportunity for Cranswick to continue the development of its UK poultry business, building on the highly successful acquisition of Benson Park, the market leading producer of premium cooked poultry, in October 2014,” he added.

“This acquisition represents important progress in our long-term growth strategy of developing new product channels in both pork and other proteins.”

The announcement saw the company’s share price reach a new high of £23.50/share by early afternoon on Monday, almost an 8% gain on the day’s opening price.

David Thacker’s father, Fred, founded the business in 1951, processing a few hens in a small shed only yards away from where today’s modern factory stands. During the next 25 years, the business continued to grow until Fred Thacker sold the company in the late 1970s.

From 1980 David and Fred ran the business under the name Harvest Poultry for the new owners, and in 1993 David led a management buyout and renamed the company Crown Chicken Ltd. By then the business had developed into a fully integrated poultry company comprising all the stages of feed milling, breeding, hatching, rearing and processing.

During the past 20 years, David Thacker and his fellow directors/shareholders, Nigel Armes and Matthew Ward, continued to expand and develop the business into the company that it is today, rearing and processing in excess of 450,000 birds each week.

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About The Author

Graeme Kirk has been editor of Pig World since March 2013. Born into a farming family in South-west Scotland, he’s spent his career in agricultural journalism.