Branston Pickle sold to Japan firm

Branston PickleOne of the nation's favourite sandwich fillers, Branston Pickle, is to be sold to a Japanese firm in a deal worth £92.5 million.

The proposed sale by Premier Foods, which also owns Hovis, Mr Kipling and Bisto, includes other Branston products such as ketchup, relish, salad cream and mayonnaise.
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The business is being bought by Japan's Mizkan, which recently acquired Premier's vinegar brand, Sarson's, and pickles business, Haywards. It already has operations at Burntwood in Staffordshire and is a major supplier of rice vinegar in the UK.

Branston, which is named after the village near Burton in Staffordshire where Crosse & Blackwell first produced it in 1922, sells an estimated 28 million jars a year of the pickled relish, which is made to a secret recipe.
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Premier acquired the Branston business as part of its acquisition of certain Crosse & Blackwell operations from Nestle in 2002.

Around 350 people who work at Premier's Bury St Edmunds factory in Suffolk will transfer to Mizkan as part of the proposed deal, which is due to complete early next year.

The disposal means debt-laden Premier will have raised £370 million from the sale of a number of non-core brands, including Robertson's marmalade and Gale's honey. It is also well ahead of its target of £330 million by June 2014.

St Albans-based Premier has been struggling under a £1.3 billion debt mountain following a spending spree which included Mr Kipling owner RHM, but now looks to be on the mend after a "landmark" £1.4 billion refinancing deal.

The disposals represent a 30% cut in Premier's debt since the summer as it focuses on a core portfolio of brands that also includes Batchelors, Ambrosia and Oxo. It is also thought to be considering its options for Hovis amid challenging conditions in the bakery sector.

Mizkan is a 207-year-old family-owned food manufacturing company with vinegar operations worldwide. Its chief executive, Kazuhide Matazaemon Nakano, said the Branston brand offered a solid foundation for the company's growth in the UK.

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Branston Pickle sold to Japan firm

Administrators sounded the death knell for Woolworths in December 2008, leading to store closures that left 27,000 people out of work. Since its collapse former Woolworths stores have become a blight in many town centres and more than 100 of the large stores still lay vacant in January 2012.

Loyal customers didn't have go without the family favourite store for long however as it reappeared online as Woolworths.co.uk in 2009, after Shop Direct Home Shopping bought out the Woolworths name.

The greetings cards specialist became the latest highstreet casualty in May with 8,000 jobs on the line when it was forced it into administration. Its biggest supplier, American Greetings, then bought Clintons out of administration and put the retailer through a rebrand including a new logo and complete in-store revamps.

Its contemporary format includes new fixtures and fittings and easier to navigate stores, and will be rolled out to all 400 UK stores at the cost of £16million. Bosses aim to bring the brand back to profit within two years.

Poor sales in the run up to Christmas was the final nail in the coffin for several struggling chains, including lingerie retailer La Senza, which went bust in January 2012 with 146 shops and 2,600 staff. Kuwaiti retailer Alshaya bought part of the business, which saved 60 shops and 1,000 staff.

La Senza has been struggling in a similar way to other specialist shops such as Game and Mothercare, which have been hit by cut-price competition at supermarkets and have no alternative products to help shoulder losses.

Stricken retailer Blacks Leisure, which employed 3,600 staff across 98 Blacks stores and 208 Millets stores, went into administration in Janurary 2012 after failing to find an outright buyer.

Soon after its stores were bought by sportswear firm JD Sports in pre-pack deal - an insolvency procedure which sees a company being sold immediately after it has entered administration – which saw most of Blacks' £36 million of debt wiped out.

Fashion chain Bonmarche, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold in January when the group collapsed due to unsustainable debts, resulting in 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores, which continue to trade with 2,400 staff.

Peacocks collapsed under a £740 million net debt mountain in January 2012 in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths. Despite being sold out of administration to Edinburgh Woollen Mill in a deal that saved 380 stores and 6,000 jobs, administrators from KPMG were forced to close 224 stores with immediate effect. This lead to 3,350 redundancies from stores and Peacocks head office in Cardiff.

The high street name continues trading as bosses work to stabilise the situation, yet a further blow was dealt this month with news that the firm's pension fund is in £15.8 million shortfall as a result of the collapse.

Game buckled under its £85m debt pile in March 2012 and was placed into administration after being unable to pay a £21m rent bill. Administrator PwC immediately closed 277 shops, with the loss of 2,000 jobs. Soon after, investment firm, OpCapita bought 333 Game stores, saving more than 3,000 jobs.

Game's demise followed a string of profit warnings and the failure of nervous suppliers, including leading names Electronic Arts and Nintendo, to go on providing the latest games, further damaging poor sales.

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