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Job worry as biscuit maker talks to Chinese

UNITED Biscuits is on the verge of being taken over by a Chinese food company, according to reports.
david brough

UNITED Biscuits is on the verge of being taken over by a Chinese food company, according to reports.

Speculation is rife that Shanghai-based Bright Foods is holding exclusive talks with the company and is lining up a bid.

The Financial Times reported on Monday that the deal would be worth about £2.5billion.

Brands that fall under the United Biscuits umbrella include such household names as Penguin, McVitie's Digestives, Jacob's, Mini Cheddars, Jaffa Cakes and Hula Hoops.

The company is currently owned by two private equity firms, the American Blackstone Group and French-based PAI Partners, who bought the company for £1.6bn four years ago.

United has its head offices in Hayes Park, Hayes End Road, where nearly 500 of its 7,000 UK staff work.

Britain's biggest biscuit producer declined to comment on the reports, or the possibility of job cuts should a deal be struck.

After Cadbury's, based in Uxbridge Business Park, Sanderson Road, was taken over by American firm Kraft in January of this year, about 150 people at the Uxbridge site lost their jobs.

Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell said: "It is a signifi-cant employer that has been in Hayes for a long time, and it needs to remain here.

"It's too early to tell at the moment,but should the deal go ahead, I would hope that the new company would commit to a long-term future in the area, and I would expect them to provide continuity in the same way that they have done in the past, and work with the local community."

David Brough (pictured), chairman of Hayes Town Partnership, said it was a 'real worry' for the area, and added: "This is yet another example of how a local workforce can be put under threat by the globalisation of world markets.

"We do not know why the Chinese want to take over the company and whether they would rationalise the business.

"Hayes cannot afford to lose a company of this standing and I will be working with the local MP and others to see what can be done to make our voice heard to government on what is a key national issue."

* Do you work at United Biscuits? What are your thoughts? Email jackgriffith@trinitysouth.co.uk.

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