Eversheds sees through Geest buyout for Bakkavor

Eversheds has advised Bakkavor on its acquisition of Geest, the latest in a string of Icelandic raids on UK assets, with this one being announced last Tuesday (8 March).

Birmingham partner Guy Green has one of the largest franchises for Icelandic work due to good connections with Bakkavor owners the Gudmundsson brothers and investment bank Kaupthing, which has supported many of the recent Icelandic forays.

Green advised the Gud-mundssons on the major disposal of their Scandinavian interests two years ago. “I sold a business to [the Gud-mundssons] in 2000 and, because it went very well, a year later they asked me to act on the acquisition of Katsouris,” he commented.

Bakkavor began building up a stake in Geest last year and, in December, the food company opened up its books for due diligence. Geest’s board finally recommended the bid last Tuesday.

Geest was advised by its long-term legal advisers Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Julian Long, a partner at the magic circle firm, said the deal was unusual primarily because of the special arrangements made over a break fee.

Because Bakkavor was already part-owner of Geest when it made the bid, it was deemed a concert party by the Takeover Panel and therefore could not use the full 1 per cent break fee allowed in a normal takeover. However, Geest will still have to pay almost £2m if the deal does not go through by May.

The Gudmundssons, who have lived in the UK for four years, paid around £485m for Geest. The business will compete with Northern Foods, the UK’s largest ready meals group.