John West in £568m Thai sale

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The UK's leading canned fish brand, John West, was set to fall into Thai hands today following a 680 million euros (£568 million) deal.

Private equity firm Trilantic Capital Partners has agreed to sell the brand's owner, MW Brands, to Thailand's biggest producer and exporter of canned fish, Thai Union Frozen Products (TUF).

Liverpool-based John West was founded more than 140 years ago by a Scotsman of the same name who set up canning factories in the US.

The name was bought by two Liverpool merchants who began importing canned salmon in 1892. The firm is renowned for its slogan, "It's the fish John West rejects that makes John West the best".

The business was bought by Unilever in 1963, with branches soon established in Australia and Africa. In 1997 the company was bought by food giant Heinz, which in turn sold it on to Trilantic in 2006.

Trilantic is the former private equity business of failed investment bank Lehman Brothers, which was taken over by its former bosses last year.

John West employs 67 staff in the UK, with 12 in Ireland but around 300 more indirectly through its supply chain. MW Brands also includes other major international businesses including Petit Navire in France and holds market-leading positions in Ireland, the Netherlands and Italy.

TUF president Thiraphong Chansiri said the deal was a "transformational opportunity" which would lift its tuna processing capacity to half a million tonnes.

He said: "MWB's strong European footprint will also provide us with further business opportunities in the future through a strong customer base, distribution, and brand leadership."

Trilantic partner Joe Cohen said: "We are proud to have been involved with MW Brands from its inception as a carve-out of various businesses from Heinz to becoming the leading European canned seafood company."