GrandMet sells seafood arm again for $190m

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The Independent Online
There was more than a touch of deja vu about an announcement yesterday from Grand Metropolitan detailing the sale of the Van de Kamp frozen seafood business.

This is the second time GrandMet, the UK-based international food and drinks business, has sold Van de Kamp as a legacy of a takeover bid.

GrandMet first acquired and subsequently disposed of the business for $140m in 1989 when it bought the Pillsbury food company for $5.8bn.

Van de Kamp eventually ended up in the hands of Pet, the American food company specialising in Mexican sauces and Italian soups that GrandMet bought in January for $2.6bn.

The seafoods business and a small frozen dessert operation have been sold for $190m to a group of private investors in the US. GrandMet yesterday declined to disclose the value it placed on the Van de Kamp business when it bought Pet, although analysts say the sale will lead to a favourable adjustment to goodwill on the balance sheet of between $20m and $30m.

Shares in GrandMet firmed 1p yesterday to 397p. Analysts expect Van de Kamp will not be the only bit of Pet to be sold.

The US investment group has negotiated the purchase of Van de Kamp under the umbrella of Dartford Partnership, which operates out of San Francisco.

David Nash, head of GrandMet's food side, said: "These disposals are consistent with GrandMet's strategy of developing important food and drinks brands which generate consistent profit growth."

Van de Kamp did not fit the company's long-term strategic criteria laid down for Pet, based in St Louis, Missouri.

Annual turnover of Van de Kamp, which makes breaded and battered fish sticks and fillets, and the dessert business, which produces Oronoque pie shells, Pet-Ritz cream pies and private-label whipping topping, is about $150m. GrandMet's turnover in the year to March exceeded pounds 3.9bn ($6.2bn).

The disposal of the Van de Kamp brand will barely scratch the long list of household names acquired by GrandMet over the years. Pet's best-known brand names include the Old El Paso range of Mexican foods and Progresso, a range of ready-to-serve soups.

The acquisition of Pet pushed GrandMet up from fourteenth to seventh place in the league of food companies in the US, ahead of Kellogg and Heinz.

Most of GrandMet's leading food brands were brought on board when Pillsbury was acquired. Besides the Pillsbury name, the brand stable includes Green Giant frozen and canned vegetables, Haagen-Dazs ice-cream, Hungry Jack sauces, and Martha White.

GrandMet also owns IDV, the drinks group, and the Burger King fast food business.