Crown Chicken acquired by Cranswick

Cranswick, the listed pigmeat processor and food producer, has acquired CCL Holdings, parent of the Crown Chicken integrated poultry business, from its management which includes the founding Thacker family.  The Hull-based company has paid £40 million, funded from existing bank facilities, for 100% of Crown’s issued share capital.

 Crown was founded in 1951 by Fred Thacker near Diss in Norfolk, where the company still has its headquarters. It was sold in the late 1970s, but continued to be managed by the Thacker family, who bought it back in 1993 in a management buy-out with other executives. The business now rears and processes around 450,000 birds per week, with fresh chicken sold into the retail, food service, wholesale and manufacturing sectors.

The company has its own modern feed mill, located at Kenninghall in Norfolk. As well as the 1,700 tonnes of feed manufactured each week for its own operations, the plant makes an additional weekly 2,600 tonnes of monogastric feed products for third party pig and poultry customers in East Anglia.

Crown reported adjusted earnings of £6.6 million on sales of £83.8m in the year ended December 31st 2015, when it had adjusted gross assets of £28.4m. Cranswick made a pre-tax profit of £52.8m on revenues of £1 billion in the year ended March 31st 2015. Crown directors Nigel Armes (mill) and Matthew Ward (agricultural) will remain with the business under its new ownership, but chairman David Thacker is to retire.

While Cranswick’s roots are in East Yorkshire pig feed manufacture, the business concentrated on developing its pig processing business from the late 1980s. However, it returned to pig production in 2013 through the purchase of the East Anglian Pigs business in Norfolk plus assets from the former Dent operation in Nottinghamshire and North Yorkshire.  It diversified into poultry for the first time in 2014 with the acquisition of Benson Park, the £41m producer of premium British cooked poultry products, also based in Hull.

Commenting on the latest deal, Cranswick chief executive Adam Couch says: “Crown is a well-respected operator in the UK poultry sector. It 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.  This acquisition represents important progress in our long term growth strategy of developing new product channels in both pork and other proteins.”