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Nut butter brand Meridian is closing in on a £50m takeover, with SHS Group as poised to win the highly competitive auction according to City insiders.

Northern Irish consumer goods company SHS is believed to be in exclusive talks with 3V Natural Foods, which owns Meridian and premium soft drinks brand Rocks, with a deal expected to be sealed in the coming weeks.

The owners of Meridian hired corporate advisors at Spayne Lindsay last year to find a buyer for the group as demand for nut butter continued to explode.

A handful of PE houses lodged bids of more than £40m for the business, but the trade player was able to offer a significantly higher price.

Irish-listed Glanbia, the world’s largest sports nutrition business, was also involved in the late stages of the process.

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Morning update

The Grocer also has the story that Yorkshire-based Symington’s is back in profit as its turnaround strategy has started to yield results. Also a 200-strong fleet of vehicles formerly owned by Palmer & Harvey is set to come up for auction next week. See later this morning for details.

On the markets this morning, B&M European Value Retail has announced that, following the placing by CD&R of its remaining shareholding in the Company on 12 January 2018, David Novak has retired as a non-executive Director of the Company with effect from 18 January 2018.

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has edged down 0.1% to 7,696.1pts so far this morning.

Early movers include FeverTree (FEVR), which has jumped 9.9% higher to 2,386.7p on market rumours of a possible takeover, with Unilever linked. 

Other risers include Science in Sport (SIS), up 2% to 77p, Nichols (NICL), up 2% to 1,534.5p, Glanbia (GLB), up 1.7% to €14.39 and Hilton Food Group (HFG), up 1.7% to 850p.

Fallers include PureCircle (PURE), down 2.2% to 432p, Real Good Food (RGD), down 2.1% to 22.5p and Total Produce (TOT), down 1.5% to 201p.

Yesterday in the City

A larger than expected drop in first quarter profits at the sugar division of Associated British Foods hit the FTSE 100 firm’s shares yesterday. ‘Record’ Christmas sales at Primark were not enough to save ABF from a 3.6% share price drop to 2,755p after the weaker than expected sugar performance.

ABF’s fall was one driver of a 0.3% in the FTSE 100 to end Thursday down at 7,701pts.

Other fallers included Premier Foods (PFD), down 4.2% to 42p after the promise of its strong quarterly results earlier this week has been undermined by concerns over key brands like Mr Kipling and Cadbury cakes.

Also down were Total Produce (TOT), down 5.1% to 204p, Hotel Chocolat (HOTC), down 3.5% to 345p, Imperial Brands (IMB), down 1.8% to 3,017.5p, Dairy Crest (DCG), down 1.7% to 571.5p and Tate & Lyle (TATE), down 1.6% to 671.2p.

Risers included Coca-Cola HBC (CCH), down 2.2% to 2,412p, Britvic (BVIC), up 1.9% to 815.5p, Greencore (GNC), up 1.1% to 223.8p.

Science in Sport (SIS) jumped 5.6% to 75.5p and fellow sports nutrition company Glanbia (GLB) jumped 4.7% to €14.15.

Bakkavor ended the day flat at 197p after a brief trading update, while Finsbury Food Group (FIF), fell 0.2% to 111.25p after its own trading update.