Wiseman buys Scottish Pride

Robert Wiseman Dairies has strengthened its position in the Scottish milk market with the acquisition of the milk interests of Scottish Pride, the dairy group which collapsed into receivership last month.

The deal gives Robert Wiseman 78 per cent of the Scottish milk market compared with its previous 52 per cent. However, the company has reached an agreement with the OFT which will allow the deal to go through as long as it reveals its prices to the trading authorities.

The company is paying pounds 4.8m to acquire a milk bottling plant at Rutherglen as well as five depots and the "Fresh n Lo" trademark of semi-skimmed milk.

The move safeguards 120 of Scottish Pride's remaining 607 workers. Around 140 were made redundant earlier this month. Robert Wiseman is not buying Scottish Pride's milk processing plant at Govan near Glasgow because it has a modern plant of its own nearby.

Robert Wiseman is raising pounds 12.2m in a placing and open offer at 172p to fund the deal. The additional money will be used to invest in the Scottish Pride businesses.

Blair Nimmo of receivers KPMG said he hoped there would be no further redundancies. The sale of the loss-making milk interests leaves the more robust cheese and UHT businesses to be sold. "There is a good degree of interest in these businesses whereas with the milk side there were really no other buyers apart from Robert Wiseman."

The receivers were called in to Scottish Pride in February after trading losses and debts mounted.

Robert Wiseman Dairies also said yesterday that since its half-year results in November, weak bulk cream prices and intense competition had kept margins under pressure. However, its said it had increased sales to supermarket customers.