Seafood company buys Northern Irish competitor

A company that manufactures and supplies seafood products to the retail and foodservice sectors has expanded its offering after buying one of its Northern Irish rivals.

Whitby Seafoods bought Middleton Seafoods for an undisclosed sum, in a deal that has created a business with a combined turnover of £22 million.

Middleton’s will continue to be led by Jack Cowden, who also joins Whitby Seafoods’ board. The acquired company will continue to process its products at its factory in Kilkeel, County Down.

Whitby Seafoods’ managing director, Graham Whittle, said: “Through the joining of these two companies, both become stronger and better able to deliver excellent value for money to our customers.”

The acquirer was advised throughout the transaction by Angus Allan, a partner at accountancy practice Clive Owen & Co LLP. Allan introduced the company to GE Commercial Finance, Business Finance, which backed the deal.

GE’s investment was arranged by Leeds-based regional director John Savage, who said the firm provided a package that involved a confidential invoice discounting facility, inventory loan, plant and machinery loan, property and a cashflow loan.

“By bringing Whitby and Middleton together Graham Whittle had a business that would be the largest producer of frozen scampi in the UK. The deal was ideally suited to the comprehensive range of products GE is able to offer, resulting in an individually-tailored funding structure that met the requirements.” he added.

Whitby received legal services from Eversheds, with L’Estrange & Brett handling the Northern Irish issues of the deal. GE was supported by Addleshaw Goddard.

Eversheds’ team was led by partner Alan Fletcher, who was assisted by Katie Marshall and Richard Kyle. Mark Lisgo led the team working on the finance raising.

Fletcher said this is the first time the firm has advised Whitby. “We are certain that the enlarged group will benefit from both its increased market share and economies of scale to compete even more successfully with the large national and international players in this sector.”

Addleshaw Goddard’s team was led by banking associate Georgina Whitaker and property associate Richard Longton.

“The acquisition of Middleton Seafoods by Whitby Seafoods is exciting for both companies and will ensure continued growth for the group,” Whitaker said.

GE appointed SHM Smith Hodgkinson to manage the valuations and an inventory of P&M and Quantum Corporate Finance undertaking the financial due diligence.

SHM was led from its Manchester office by associate director and head of asset-based lending Christian Humphreys.

Humphreys said the firm completed asset and inventory multi-site inspections in the UK and Northern Ireland. “Professional valuation advice was completed within a period of seven working days allowing the proposed funder to propose terms efficiently and precisely.

“Both Whitby Seafoods and W Middleton Seafoods (N.I.) utilise high calibre equipment ensuring that they are well geared for the production of good quality frozen seafood,” he added. “Both companies are primary producers of scampi to the UK food service and UK retail markets distributing to an impressive customer base. The acquisition is likely to prove beneficial to both companies in increasing market share.”

Whitby Seafoods manufactures scampi products as well as fish cakes, coated fish fillets, cooked and peeled prawns, fish goujons, seafood platters and coated prawns.

Middleton Seafoods has been supplying retail and catering clients since the early 1980s, trading under the W Middleton & Son (NI) brand. It sources its products locally in Northern Ireland as well as from the Republic of Ireland and Scottish waters.

SHM Smith Hodgkinson

SHM Smith Hodgkinson is a leading appraiser, valuer and auctioneer of plant, machinery, real estate and business assets. It provides independent advice, specialist skills and commitment to quality. SHM combines significant financial firepower and balance sheet strength to remove any risk or uncertainty through guaranteed valuations, whilst retaining focus and a total commitment to each individual client.

Marc Barber

Raven Connelly

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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