Piecemeal sales of parts of the business – rather than the disposal of entire units – increased the threat to UK jobs, said Roy Streeter, regional officer for Manchester and Merseyside at the Bakery, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), which has members at CSM’s Manchester facility.
Streeter feared widespread job losses if the group’s UK business interests were sold to a private equity firm. “That would be the worst thing that could happen,” he warned.
CSM is looking for one buyer for its UK business – which produces bakery ingredients and baked products, he said. But some staff at the Manchester plant – which produces bakery ingredients – would prefer to see CSM sell its UK bakery ingredients business separately from its UK baked goods business.
This would allow the Manchester site to thrive but leave the less-profitable Wirral site, which produces baked goods, to fend for itself, said Streeter.
Noose around their neck
“Some of the people at the Manchester facility feel like Wirral has been a noose around their neck for a long-time.
“The Manchester site is profitable, while the Wirral site has been less so. Staff in Manchester would like to see a separate sale.”
A spokesman for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which represents staff in Wirral, said the union had not been told of any threat to jobs at the site.
A CSM spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: CMS could not comment on whether it would sell its bakery arm as a unified business until the proposal to sell is confirmed by shareholders on July 3. If approved, the firm would expect the sale to be complete in 2013, she added.
Period of uncertainty
Gerard Hoetmer chief executive of CSM said that employees in the company’s bakery arm “will face a period of uncertainty” as the plan to sell is confirmed and finalised.
Hoetmer added: “While Bakery Supplies is a well-run business with excellent market positions, its value and prospects would be enhanced under different ownership.”
The decision to sell the bakery businesses was taken after a review of the group’s strategy. The firm expects market consolidation in the bakery sector to continue and did not feel it had sufficient financial resources to participate at a competitive level, it said.
CSM claims to be the largest supplier of bakery products in the world. Its Bakery Supplies business had a combined worldwide turnover of £1.9bn last year.
In addition to the Wirral and Manchester operations, CSM also has UK production sites in Bradford, Milton Keynes, Surrey and West Sussex.