French group swoops in deal for food and drink hygiene specialist

Stuart Middleton

Bury-based Holchem, one of the largest suppliers of cleaning chemicals to food and drink manufacturers in the UK, has been acquired by French group Kersia, for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition follows a ruling by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last October that American-owned Ecolab, which has its UK headquarters in Cheshire, would have to dispose of Holchem following a merger deal in November 2018.

The CMA ruled that the merger between Ecolab and Holchem would lead to price rises and a lower quality of service.

Kersia is a global leader in biosecurity and food safety.

Following this deal, backed by France-based private equity investment company Ardian, Kersia said it becomes a leader in the UK hygiene sector and the second largest player in Europe.

Holchem will join Kersia’s global operations platform that spans from Northern Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and China.

A large majority of the company’s sales are directed to the food,beverage and dairy industries, with additional sales to the food service, retail, institutional and farm sectors.

With a turnover of approximately £50m, Holchem operates from two industrial sites located in Bury and Liphook, in Hampshire, primarily serving the UK market.

Following the acquisition of Kilco in July 2018, which enabled Kersia to penetrate the UK livestock sector (dairy, poultry and swine), the Holchem transaction allows Kersia to continue its development in this key geography, leveraging Holchem’s strong positioning to provide leadership in the British food and beverage hygiene market.

The combination of Kersia and Holchem will be able to benefit from major growth opportunities in the context of high global health and food safety standards, which are continuously rising.

In the UK market, Kersia and Holchem are complementary, both in terms of geographies and sectors, offering an important synergy opportunity, especially as country-specific standards and customer requirements become increasingly more stringent.

Both companies share common values via their strong focus on environment and social responsibility and offer innovative digital solutions to enable their clients’ productivity.

During the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis both companies have been, and remain, strongly committed to supporting their customers and wider communities by refocusing operations towards the traditional products which have been most in demand, such as disinfectant and hand-hygiene solutions, while also continuing to support the rising demand for biosecurity protocols and enabling knowledge-sharing and best practices.

Following this acquisition, Kersia will operate in more than 120 countries with a workforce of around 1,500 people and a turnover of more than £271.5m.

Sébastien Bossard, Kersia chief executive, said: “We are thrilled to welcome the Holchem teams to the group.

“Their DNA, the quality of their work, the experience of their employees, their solutions, their services, strongly oriented towards the food industry in the UK and Ireland, make them very complementary to our current operations.

“This merger will enable us to make new solutions and services available to Kersia’s customers throughout the world, and in the same way, will provide Holchem’s local teams and customers with Kersia’s solutions to help combat contamination by pathogens of the food chain in one of the world’s largest food processing regions.

“We look forward to working together with Holchem management team and employees and continuing Holchem’s successful development.”

Stuart Middleton, managing director of Holchem, said: “Over the years Holchem has built a prominent position in the hygiene and food safety solutions market in the UK and Ireland thanks to its comprehensive and innovative offering.

“We can be proud of what our managers and employees have achieved.

“We are very excited to join the Kersia Group of companies, which has become a global leader in food safety in a few years, and we look forward to contributing to Kersia Group’s growth, both in our home markets and globally.

“We believe that this important transaction will bring many opportunities to all our employees and our customers in the combined organisation.”

Thibault Basquin, head of Americas Investments for Ardian Buyout, said: “Once again, we are extremely proud to support Kersia in this major deal, marking a new stage in the group’s development.

“This is the sixth build-up Kersia has effectuated in less than four years.

“The partnership with Holchem will enable Kersia to become truly global, and Europe’s second largest player in food safety.

“The group is now more capable than ever to become a trusted partner in a rapidly-growing market and will continue to work tirelessly to meet the global demand.”