According to CEO Giovanni Ferrero, the company delivered its best ever results in Britain during 014. This growth has persuaded Ferrero that now is the right time to broaden roots in the UK market, where it has operated since 1966.
The family-owned company has offered to buy Thorntons for 145p a share through its subsidiary Ferholding, valuing the chocolate maker at £111.9m.
In 2014, Thorntons issued a profits warning in December after revenues plunged over the Christmas trading period as commercial clients cut orders, sending the shares down 35 per cent.
The company also struggled to attract shoppers to its high street shops, which led to chief executive Jonathan Hart stepping down after failing to stem falling sales.
Ferrero is convinced, however, that Thorntons has performed admirably in the UK, and has demonstrated this through its “tremendous customer loyalty”.
He claimed that the move would unite two companies that share the same passion for growing brands, and a proud heritage, drive and culture built upon their family foundations.
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The company has also bought out Thortons’ senior management team, which means that Ferrero already owns 29.9 per cent of Thorntons. The company has agreed to buy further shares from other directors, which would bring its entire shareholdering to 34.36 per cent.
Once the deal is concluded, it will carry out a strategic review to see how to best grow the brands and look for savings. The Italian firm has, however, suggested it would retain Thorntons’ factory in Alreton, which employs around 1,500 staff.
Thorntons has urged its shareholders to back the offer. Chairman Paul Wilkinson said: “Ferrero is offering our shareholders an attractive premium to the average price of Thorntons’ shares over the last three months. Although the prospects for Thorntons as an independent company remain strong as the company embarks on the next phase of its strategy, the board of Thorntons also recognises the potential benefits to the brand and the business, including employees and all stakeholders from combining with the Ferrero Group.”
Wilkinson suggested that Ferrero would be a good cultural fit for Thorntons. As such, the board gave its unanimous recommendation for the offer.
On completion of the deal, Thorntons will be delisted from the London Stock Exchange.
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