Premier Foods is to close its Hovis head office in Windsor, as well as consolidate activities at other sites as part of its ongoing plan to cut costs and streamline the business.

A spokesperson for Premier told British Baker that the plans for consolidation would be "primarily at its head office in St Albans and food technology centre at High Wycombe". The proposed closure of Hovis Court forms part of its "ongoing integration and simplification of the business" and is expected to take place in the next six to nine months, he added.

He confirmed the site housed purely administrative employees, including HR, sales and marketing and procurement, and said the decision was not a kneejerk reaction, but formed part of Premier’s long-term strategy to increase its efficiency, and reduce costs.

However, Investec Securities analyst Martin Deboo warned the firm might risk losing focus on the uniqueness of its Hovis business by amalgamating its head offices: "Premier is under huge pressure to cut costs, and they’ll want to pursue all sorts of opportunities to do this. On the one hand they need to eliminate overheads wherever they can. But Hovis is a very different business to grocery; it’s a higher-volume, daily business and requires a different set of managerial skills."

In its preliminary results for the year ended 31 December, the firm said that, following the disposals of its canning and meat-free businesses, its net debt would be below £900m, compared to £1,365m a year ago.

Of the 140 employees at the Windsor site, Premier said it was too early to say how many redundancies there might be, but that it would aim to keep them to a minimum, with most planned to move across to its head office in St Albans.

The firm said it would shortly begin a consultation process with its employees at the Hovis Court regarding the proposals. As yet there are no details on the plans to consolidate activities at its other sites, added the spokesperson.

In other news Premier has announced the appointment of Mike Clarke as the firm’s new CEO, with effect from 1 September 2011. Clarke is currently president of Kraft Foods Europe, and will replace Robert Schofield who is retiring and will now leave Premier following a short handover.

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