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Burns: Looking at partnerships with other companies

Fresh Direct MD David Burnshas moved to quash rumours the foodservice specialist is up for sale.

Rather than assisting with plans to sell the business, Burns said the company has enlisted the services of financial adviser Duff & Phelps as it considers enhancing its already impressive growth rate.

He told FPJ: “Our accounts for the year ended 31 July 2013 havenot been audited yet but they show another successful year.

“We don’t have to do anything different to carry on growing at 10-15 per cent a year. We have always used traditional high street banking, but Duff & Phelps have suggested that we might want to look at growth in other ways and opening up to partnerships with other food companies or with companies from outside the sector.”

Fresh Direct sees an opportunity for it in the marketplace below the multi-billion pound operators, such as 3663 and Brakes, that dominate the UK sector for it to grow as a specialist chilled food producer rather than just a fresh produce supplier. “Our strat- egy is to grow to at least £250 million in sales by 2015,” said Burns.

“We may or may not choose to bring a partner in, but that partner would have to enhance the business and have significant investment in the our asset base.”

Burns added that Fresh Direct frequently fields enquiries from interested partners and therefore it is very much a case of business as usual for the foodservice supplier. Customers of Fresh Direct are also aware of the initiative, Burns stressed.

Duff & Phelps issued an investment opportunity document earlier this month. It stated: “Our client represents a unique investment opportunity to leverage an existing solid platform and brand to create the dominant market leader in food supply in the UK.”

It also highlighted the firm’s revenues of £200m annually with an EBITDA margin of around four per cent and its “highly respected management team [is] well known in the industry and [has] a reputation for pride and passion in food”. The document also pointed out that with investment the firm would have “the capacity and infrastructure in place to handle over £2bn of sales”.

In its annual results for the year to 3 August 2012, groups sales were up 14 per cent on 2011.