June 9, 2020 / 9:14 AM / 2 months ago

Founding family and CEO take full control of Britain's Iceland Foods

LONDON (Reuters) - The founding family of Britain’s Iceland Foods and its chief executive have taken full ownership of the frozen food specialist which has seen a two decade-high market share during the coronavirus crisis.

FILE PHOTO: People queue outside an Iceland store in Northwich opening one hour early to allow elderly shoppers to buy food as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Northwich, Britain, March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington/File photo

Malcolm Walker, who founded the supermarket group in 1970, and CEO Tarsem Dhaliwal, have purchased the 63.1% of Iceland owned by South African investment company Brait for 115 million pounds ($146 million).

Iceland Foods is now 100% owned by Walker, Dhaliwal and their related parties.

Reuters reported in March that Walker could seek to regain outright ownership.

“It is particularly satisfying to turn this new page in Iceland’s history just before the 50th anniversary of the opening of our first shop on 18 November 1970,” said Walker.

Walker listed Iceland on the London Stock Exchange in 1984. It merged with wholesaler Booker in 2000 and was purchased by a consortium led by Icelandic investor Baugur in 2005.

Baugur collapsed after the financial crisis and in 2012 Walker was among those who bought Iceland back from the liquidators of failed Icelandic banks in a deal valuing it at 1.55 billion pounds.

Brait, under pressure to reduce debt, said in November it planned to sell its stakes within five years in several British companies, including Iceland.

The more than 1,000 store Iceland is Britain’s ninth biggest supermarket in overall grocery market share, but it is second only to industry leader Tesco in frozen food and it has benefited from consumers stocking up on products that have a long life during the pandemic.

Industry data showed its sales rose 28.6% over the 12 weeks to May 17, giving it a market share of 2.4%, a proportion of sales it last held in 2000.

($1 = 0.7894 pounds)

Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton

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