Espersen buy-out of Iceland Seafood UK completes

The buy-out of a Grimsby seafood factory has completed.

Long-standing Danish operator Esperson has acquired Iceland Seafood UK, with the Copenhagen-headquartered firm fulfilling its strategic ambition of securing a British foothold. The company’s largest market is with UK retailers, and having previously relied solely on imports from its European operations, the team is looking forward to processing closer to the consumer.

Now it will set to work on turning round the fortunes of the loss-making Grimsby site, where between 150 and 180 people are employed. Agreement on the sale was reached almost a month ago, with Espersen having pulled out of an initial swoop late last year – one of two then unnamed buyers interested after parent company Iceland Seafood International announced its intention to exit the UK market.

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Klaus Nielsen, chief executive of Espersen, a £350 million turnover entity, spoke with Business Live soon after negotiations concluded.

He said: “This acquisition is more than just a business decision; it is a commitment to our customers, our employees, and the industry. We are excited about the acquisition of Iceland Seafood UK Ltd and the myriad of opportunities it presents to Espersen.

Klaus B Nielsen, chief executive of Espersen, the Danish company set to complete the buy-out of Iceland Seafood UK.
Klaus B Nielsen, chief executive of Espersen, the Danish company set to complete the buy-out of Iceland Seafood UK.

“While our roots and dedication lie firmly with our existing customers and partners, this acquisition reaffirms our commitment to growth. We believe that our new UK facility and its leadership team will play a critical role in shaping Espersen’s future on the UK market, allowing us to serve our customers better and fortify our position as a local supplier.”

Iceland Seafood UK was launched at the huge former Five Star Fish premises on Great Grimsby Business Park, just as Covid-19 hit UK shores. ISI had united an existing West Yorkshire operation with the neighbouring Havelok business, bringing back to use the heavily invested 100,000 sq ft plant, last operated in 2018 by Two Sisters.

However, losses of £12 million led to the move to sell with renovation, installation and operational difficulties exacerbated by the pandemic and, later, Brexit. It was a financial hit now repeated in the current year, with a £7 million impairment factored in relating to the sale. It is now looking at a £15.5 million hit from the operation this year.

On agreement of the sale, Bjarni Ármannsson, ISI chief executive – who this week stepped down – said: “We are confident that this is the right decision for Iceland Seafood as a business. This investment has been a great cost for the company and its shareholders. It’s been a very tough market during these years, and we have tried with immense effort to turn this around without success.

“I’m confident that the interests of our employees and customers are well served within Espersen AS and I wish Espersen all the best in this market. I believe they can use the assets better than we have been able due to their strong position in the UK value-added seafood market.”

Having traded since 1937, Espersen describes itself as a world leader in the processing of frozen fish blocks, frozen fillets, specials cuts, and breaded and deluxe puff pastry fish products, with the Grimsby plant set to join modern production facilities in Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, and Vietnam.

Original artice – https://business-live.co.uk/all-about/yorkshire-humber

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