Premier Foods to close two factories with loss of 450 jobs

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The Independent Online

Premier Foods, the maker of Branston pickle and Quorn, is to close two factories over the next 16 months, leaving 450 jobs in the balance.

The group said it is proposing to shut its site at King's Lynn, Norfolk, by December and its site at Ashford, Kent, by May next year. At King's Lynn, it makes Campbell's tinned soups, canned Homepride sauces and Fray Bentos pies. At Ashford, it makes Batchelors packet soups.

Premier also announced it has acquired the jam maker Chivers Ireland from the management for an undisclosed sum in a move that strengthens its position in the Irish food market.

Robert Schofield, the chief executive, said he hoped that many of those affected by the closures would be able to transfer within the company to other sites. The 245 staff at King's Lynn would be offered jobs at sites in East Anglia, he said.

Chivers will be merged with Campbell Soups Ireland and will be headed by its current managing director, Liam O' Rourke. The business's gross assets were valued at £16m as of December 2005.

"Closing factories is not a decision we take lightly," Mr Schofield said. "These proposals are very much about maximising our competitiveness in order to grow our business and our brands."

Premier is expanding three factories - at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, Worksop, Nottinghamshire and Long Sutton, Lincolnshire - but did not say how many jobs would be created.

The news of the closures comes six months after the company took on the King's Lynn site as part of its £460m acquisition of Campbell's UK and Ireland operations.