Regulators have kicked off an investigation into Ranjit Singh Boparan’s acquisition of Banham Poultry.
The probe will examine whether the deal – struck by Boparan’s private family office in October last year – is set to substantially weaken competition in the poultry market, with Boparan already owning the UK’s biggest poultry supplier, as well as turkey giant Bernard Matthews.
It follows an initial enforcement order issued by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to Boparan Private Office (BPO) in November to halt the integration of Banham into its chicken empire ahead of a potential inquiry.
The CMA has asked for comments from any interested party to assist the watchdog in the first phase of an investigation.
Deadlines for comments is set for 11 February, with the CMA then having until 25 March to decide whether to launch a full-blown phase 2 inquiry into the deal.
The competition watchdog has looked into past acquisitions made by BPO, including the 2016 distressed takeover of turkey processor Bernard Matthews, which the private investment vehicle bought in a pre-pack administration. The regulator cleared the deal in January 2017 following a three-month probe.
BPO said at the time of the Banham deal that it would help secure the jobs of more than 1,000 staff working at the Norfolk-based chicken processor, along with many more in the supply chain.
Banham was previously acquired by Chesterfield Poultry back in 2018 in a pre-pack rescue deal after the business was hit by a number of challenges.
The business continued to battle setbacks following the deal, including being forced to close the Norfolk factory in August 2020 after more than 120 staff tested positive for Covid. The almost month-long shutdown cost the business about £2m a week and led to the culling of close to 380,000 chickens, with a stock loss of £3.8m.
Banham generated revenues of £145m in the year ended 30 June 2020.