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Confectionery maker Betta Foods likely to stay in Australian hands

ABC Business logoABC Business 11/02/2015
Re: Capital also owned Ernest Hillier, which likewise went into administration. © Ernest Hillier/ABC News Re: Capital also owned Ernest Hillier, which likewise went into administration.

Melbourne-based liquorice manufacturer Betta Foods could stay in Australian hands despite going into voluntary administration last month.

Betta Foods operates under the Capricorn brand producing liquorice, ice cream cones, Eskimo marshmallows and jellies.

The confectionery company generated revenue of $40 million last financial year and employs 180 people in its Broadmeadows plant.

The appointed administrator, Bruno Secatore from Cor Cordis, said 26 parties have expressed interest in purchasing the company.

"Most of these enquiries are from Australian-based entities that are looking to purchase the assets of the Betta Foods business," he said.

"We are expecting formal offers by the end of this week, and the signs are encouraging that there is a future for Betta Foods."

However, for many staff the future is bleak, with the administrators identifying the need for a restructure - 39 staff have been informed they will be made redundant.

Mr Secatore said they include 28 factory staff and 11 administrative staff.

"This is always a very difficult decision when you're trying to save a company. We have consulted with the unions and are dealing with this as compassionately as we can," he said.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's assistant state secretary, Craig Kelly, said some of the staff chosen for direct redundancy were replaced with volunteers that came forward.

"So far the administrators have been pretty upfront," he said.

He said workers are worried that they may not be able to access their entitlements until the company goes into liquidation.

Betta Foods went into administration just three months after being acquired by British restructuring firm Re: Capital.

Re: Capital bought the firm for an undisclosed sum in October, its second acquisition of a Victorian confectionery company.

It paid $11 million for North Coburg-based chocolatier Ernest Hillier last February but, in an embarrassing turn of events, that company has also gone into voluntary administration.

The problems at Ernest Hillier and Betta Foods come after rival chocolate brand Darrel Lea collapsed in 2012.

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