Northern Foods has sold its chilled distribution business NFT Distribution to a new group formed by a management buyout and backed by private equity group Phoenix Equity Partners for £51.2m.

It is the first part of Northern Foods' business to be sold after it announced in May this year that it was selling a number of its non-core businesses as part of a business review.

NFT Distribution provides chilled distribution services to the food sector. In the year to 1 April 2006, it recorded sales of £111.4m and an operating profit of £3.9m.

Northern Foods said that the new company would assume the name NFT Distribution Holdings and the sale was expected to be completed within 14 days.

Pat O'Driscoll, chief executive of Northern Foods, said: “Today's announcement represents a very positive first step in our disposal programme. Distribution is not core to Northern Foods going forward but this is a great business."

David Frankish, managing director of the new company, said: “The management buyout and independence of NFT represents an exciting opportunity for the team.”