Turkey tycoon gobbles up his rival in poultry: 18m pounds purchase will allow Bernard Matthews to keep up with demand

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IT WILL be a 'bootiful' Christmas for Bernard Matthews, the Norfolk turkey enthusiast. But a million turkeys that might have gone to the table whole will now face the indignity of being sliced up into large drumsticks, small roasts and steaks.

Bernard Matthews, the publicly quoted company, has bought its rival, Turners Turkeys, from Unigate for approximately pounds 18m. It expects this acquisition to boost production by one third.

The company purchased Turners for the growing farms and processing factories - where the birds are fed up, killed and cut into joints - in Lincolnshire and Norfolk. It has agreed to sell Turners' breeding and growing farms based in Shropshire, Hereford and Worcester to Sun Valley Poultry for pounds 5.6m.

'We are pleased with the deal. It has come at the right time for us because we have got a greater demand for turkey meat than we can keep up with,' Mr Matthews said.

'All of a sudden the housewife all over Europe - and especially in the UK - has latched on to the turkey as a source of low-cost, high-quality meat.'

Mr Matthews' turkey production should climb from 10 million to 13 million a year, allowing it to service new markets such as Germany, where the company cannot keep up with demand for its bootiful meats.

Of the pounds 18m, some pounds 11m is for the factories, farms and other fixed assets, while pounds 7m is for the birds. The company will keep two factories and 20 growing farms with space for more farms.

The net book value of Turners' fixed assets at 31 March was pounds 16.9m. In the year to that date, operating profit was pounds 2.8m and turnover was pounds 59.6m.

Although the deal is agreed, the sale will not take place until 8 January.

This is the company's second acquisition this year. In April it bought Hungary's leading turkey company from the Hungarian government for pounds 2.5m. Bernard Matthews shares fell 0.5p to 75p.

(Photograph omitted)