Baxters swallows third Aussie firm despite Bentos profits drop

Audrey Baxter unveiled deal to buy Australian sauce firm. Picture: Jane Barlow
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SOUP and sauce maker Baxters has completed its third takeover deal in Australia as the iconic Scottish brand continues its international growth.

The Fochabers-based company bought Melbourne-based Jensen’s Choice Foods – an organic sauce specialist – for an undisclosed sum.

The firm acquired Sole Mio in 2009 and added Andrews Food Distributors the following year, having previously snapped up outfits in Canada and Poland.

News of the deal came as accounts filed at Companies House revealed sales at holding company WA Baxter & Sons edged up 9 per cent in the 53 weeks to 2 June to £136.8 million.

But pre-tax profits dropped by 35 per cent to £4.6m following the takeover in December 2011 of pie producer Fray Bentos and extra spending on marketing campaigns.

Executive chairman Audrey Baxter described Fray Bentos as an “excellent acquisition” and said pie production had already transferred from Lincolnshire to Moray, with meatball and pudding lines due to follow by the end of this month.

Princes bought Fray Bentos from Premier Foods in 2011 as part of the £182m acquisition of its canned foods business.

But the Office of Fair Trading later ordered Princes to dispose of Fray Bentos after expressing concern about competition in the tinned food market.

Baxters’ directors recommended a final dividend of £1.5m, matching the previous year’s payout, while the highest-paid director, believed to be Baxter, collected a pay packet worth £590,000, up from £480,000.

Baxters traces its roots back to 1868, when George Baxter borrowed £100 from his family to open a grocers shop in Fochabers, where his wife, Margaret, made jams.

Their daughter-in-law, Ethel, added soups to the range in 1929, starting with the now famous royal game flavour.

News of the results came on the day that Gordon Baxter – grandson of George and father of Audrey – was buried. Gordon, along with his wife, Ena, is credited with masterminding the growth of the food group.

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