Hazlewood sells shellfish unit

Hazlewood Foods, which has been trying to transform itself from a jack-of-all-trades into a master of at least something, continued the process yesterday with another disposal, selling its shellfish division to a consortium of its management and v enturecapitalists for £59m.

The division, up for sale for two years, is based in the Netherlands and specialises in the catching, processing and sale of shrimps, cockles and mussels. It made operating profits of £10.8m on sales of £114m last year. Hazlewood says it is trying to remove itself from commodity businesses to concentrate on supplying "value-added" products such as ready-made meals and sandwiches to retailers.

Hazlewood sold its catering subsidiary, Saint Martin Food Products, to its management in September. Further disposals are expected. Analysts feel the paper business, acquired from Francis Lee, the Manchester City chairman, might be a candidate.

The group said the performance of the shellfish operations fluctuated and also demanded heavy capital expenditure, with £5m of investment probably needed next year to bring facilities into line with European food hygiene regulations.

In December, Hazlewood announced interim profits of £12m, down by more than 50 per cent on the previous year after experiencing start-up problems at four plants.

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