Dairy Crest assets sale 'remains on track' as deal referred back to UK authority


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Dairy Crest assets sale 'remains on track' as deal referred back to UK authority

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Dairy Crest's £80m sale of assets to Müller "remains on track" after being referred back to the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) by the European Commission (EC).

Surrey-based Dairy Crest revealed yesterday that the sale of its dairies operations to Müller UK & Ireland had been referred back to the CMA for review by Brussels. 

It agreed to sell dairy assets, including its loss-making fresh milk business, to British rival Müller UK & Ireland for £80m (US$120m, €109m) in November 2014.

Under the terms of the deal, Müller will also acquire the Dairy Crest's FRijj flavoured milk brand, bulk and potted cream unit, and bulk butter and milk powder businesses.

Dairy Crest processing plants in Foston, Chadwell with Heath and Severnside, a glass bottling site in Hanworth, and 72 depots are also set to be absorbed by Müller.

The transaction, which has received backing from Dairy Crest shareholders, was referred to the EC for approval.

Now, following "constructive talks​" with the EC, the proposed deal has been passed back to the CMA.

"It has also been our preference for the transaction to be reviewed in the UK, so we welcome this referral back to the CMA as a positive step,"​ said Mark Allen, CEO, Dairy Crest.

"We will work with Müller and the CMA to progress the merger review as quickly as possible."

Dairy Crest intends to use the proceeds of the proposed sale to reduce its net debt, which stood at £209.6m (US$314m, €285m) in November 2014.

In November it said the sale would also allow it to focus on its cheese, butter and spreads business, which includes its Cathedral City, Davidstow, Clover and Country Life brands.

Dairy Crest's project with Fonterra to produce and market infant formula ingredients, demineralised whey and galacto-oligosacchrides (GOS), at its Davidstow plant in Cornwall will also continue.

"This transaction will be a positive development for both Dairy Crest and the UK dairy industry as a whole, delivering economies of scale that will help to create a more sustainable UK dairy sector that is better placed to compete on the global stage,"​ Allen added yesterday.

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