Cooks Food Group expands

04:20, Oct 01 2013

NZX-listed Cooks Food Group has continued its expansion with the acquisition of the Bay of Plenty produce company Progressive Processors.

Progressive is a grower, supplier and processor of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The company supplies product such as kiwifruit purees for juice domestically and to export markets.

The decision to buy Progressive was endorsed by shareholders at Cooks' annual meeting today, the company said.

Cooks' shareholders also unanimously supported the company's acquisition of Franchise Development, the owner of the rights to Esquires coffee chain.

Cooks announced in June that it would buy Franchise Development, which held the master franchise rights for Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East and North Africa.

After buying Esquires Coffee International, it also owns the global franchisor rights, including for Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The acquisition will allow Esquires to conduct a back-door listing on the NZAX via Cooks, which also changed its name to Cooks Global Foods today to reflect the nature of its business.

Franchise Developments is owned by New Zealand entrepreneurs Stuart and Lewis Deeks, the founders of Esquires Coffee House in New Zealand.

The purchase, which would be completed next week, would be funded through an issue of shares in Cooks to the Deeks and a cash payment of $300,000.

The Deeks would become Cooks' largest shareholders.

Cooks directors Graeme Rothwell and Diana Miller resigned at today's meetings to make way for Stuart and Lewis Deeks, Andrew Kerslake and marketing and advertising guru Mike Hutcheson.

Cooks said it was acquiring Progressive Processors by offering owner and operator Neil Butler an initial 2.5 million shares in Cooks.

Three further tranches of shares to Progressive would be issued during the next three years. The fully paid, ordinary shares had an issue price of 10 cents a share, the company said.

Butler would continue as Progressive's general manager. The company has nine permanent staff and a number of casual seasonal workers.

Cooks chairman Keith Jackson said the acquisition affirmed Cooks' commitment to being a New Zealand company that exported quality products to the world.

"And that includes through the Esquires Coffee Houses network which we will seek to substantially grow," he said.

Cooks shares remained unchanged today at 17c, 70 per cent higher than a year ago, valuing the company at $4.7m.

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