Hellers to take some Goodman Fielder staff

Last updated 12:39 08/01/2014

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Hellers has the capacity to take on up to 50 workers when Goodman Fielder shuts its Hamilton site after a planned sale of its meat business.

NZX-listed Goodman Fielder wants to sell its meat and pizza businesses to Christchurch-based Hellers for up to $17 million, the company said in a market announcement today. The sale includes the familiar brands of Kiwi bacon and ham, Hutton's luncheon, bacon and ham, and Sizzlers pre-cooked smallgoods.

Should the sale proceed, Goodman Fielder's Frankton, Hamilton, site, which employed 125 people, would be closed, the company said.

Hellers founding director Todd Heller said the Christchurch-based Kiwi-owned meat company had the capacity to take on up to 50 of the staff from the closed Goodman Fielder Hamilton site to work on operations in Christchurch and Auckland.

The business, which started with a butcher shop in New Brighton in 1985, was about the "Kiwi orientation", Heller said.

It was important to keep Goodman Fielder's Kiwi meat brands in New Zealand, he said.

"We pride ourselves in being a family-owned New Zealand business and the proposed purchase of these brands would not only keep them in New Zealand, but provide a strong base for our plans to expand."

Hellers planned to keep the Kiwi bacon and ham, Brooks Deli continental meats and bacon, Hutton's luncheon, bacon and ham, Sizzlers pre-cooked smallgoods and Milano cooked continental meats brands rather than switching them to the Hellers brand.

Heller said the purchase created opportunities that would flow through to jobs and additional demand for New Zealand products.

Goodman Fielder chief executive Chris Delaney said the company aimed to focus capital and marketing expenditure on its core categories, and the meat business was not core to Goodman Fielder.

"The proposal to sell also reflects the very difficult trading environment and market conditions which have existed for the meats business for some time," he said.

Goodman Fielder was consulting with employees affected by the decision to close the site, and where possible they would fill vacancies at other Goodman Fielder sites across New Zealand and potentially at Hellers, Delaney said.

Employees who were not redeployed would receive full redundancy provisions and an employee assistance programme, he said.

"We understand the impact these decisions can have on our people, and our immediate priority is to ensure that our employees are supported through this process."

The company was also selling its pizza business, which included the Leaning Tower brand, to Mommas Frozen Products, he said.

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Total proceeds from both sales were expected to be between $15m and $17m, including inventory, and net receivables and payables. The proceeds would be used to reduce net debt and strengthen the company's financial position.

The transactions of both sales were expected to be completed on March 31, Goodman Fielder said.

The company last month sold its biscuit business in Australia, and in November it issued an earnings downgrade to its dairy business.

Goodman Fielder shares were trading down 5.7 per cent this morning to 66 cents.

- Fairfax Media

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