Belgium-based Sitra Group has acquired Abbey Logistics for an undisclosed sum, in a move which sees a major consolidation of the food logistics sector.

Sitra Group was launched in 1962. It employs approximately 1,150 people across 11 countries including the UK and operates a fleet of 700 owned trucks and over 2,000 trailers and containers, including liquid and powder food tankers.

The group, which last year reported a turnover of €165m, is largely owned by the Saelens family, with investment company Creafund holding the balance of shares since 2021.

The purchase of Abbey Logistics Group, which boasts an annual turnover of £75m, sees Sitra Group add nearly 600 staff and a fleet of 325 trucks and 550 trailers to its operations. Sitra Group has pledged that Abbey will continue to operate under its own name and livery. An Abbey Logistics spokesperson told MT that the company has no plans to make any staff redundant or to close any depots.

Abbey has been majority owned by private equity firm NorthEdge Capital since 2016, following a management buyout (MBO), led by Steve Granite, former chief executive and current chairman, who is to take on an advisory role at the company, following the acquisition.

Granite said: “Since our MBO we have successfully transformed Abbey from a £45m turnover family business to a £75m market leader and refocused the business on its core strengths as a specialist tanker operator in the UK.

“We are proud of how the business has grown, not just in revenue but in market share and maturity, to become the UK’s leading food tanker operator.

“With the unwavering support of NorthEdge and a great working relationship between the board and the investors, the business is now in great shape, and I am delighted to see it end up in the ownership of another family-owned business in Sitra Group who will undoubtedly develop the business and it’s people even further.”

He added: “I would also like to say a huge thank you and well done to the employees of Abbey who have worked tirelessly to make Abbey the market leader it is today and I’m confident that being part of the Sitra Group will have a positive impact on our people and loyal customers.”

David Patten, Abbey Logistics Group MD, also welcomed the deal. He said: “I have worked with Sitra as a supplier during my time as a customer in Europe and I hold the company and its people in high regard.

“It is an exciting time in Abbey’s history to once again be part of a family-owned business and I am over the moon to be joining the Sitra team. This is great news for our employees and customers.”

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Jon Pickering, Northedge partner and chief investment officer, said: “We are proud to see Abbey joining forces with Sitra, another market-leading business with a strong commercial and cultural fit.

“Throughout our partnership, management have worked tirelessly to build a high-quality leadership team, retain and grow a blue-chip customer base, continuously improve operational efficiencies and develop a market-leading approach to talent attraction and retention to support scale.

“Abbey is now well positioned for future growth as part of Sitra, continuing to deliver world-class service to its customers, and we wish the whole team the best of luck in their next chapter.”

David Saelens, Sitra Group chief executive, said: “Sitra Group is delighted to announce the acquisition of Abbey Logistics Group. It is a milestone in Sitra’s history to acquire a renowned, well-established company like Abbey.

“Together with our partner Creafund we have been working almost a year on this deal and to now welcome the whole Abbey family to the Sitra group feels like the cherry on the cake.

“It was a great pleasure to work closely with Steve, Dave and Matthew who are truly professionals as well as the other members of the Abbey management. We have not only aquired a great company but we also welcome some of the best individuals in our industry.

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming and introducing every Abbey member in our organisation. Abbey will continue to operate under its own name and colours and Sitra is not intending to change whatsoever to the well-working organisation that Abbey is today.

“Since Creafund’s entry in Sitra Group, the size of the company has more than doubled and we are getting close to €300m turnover with over 2,000 employees, on course to our ambition which is to reach the €500 million milestone by 2026. Please allow me to thank everybody who was involved in making this deal happen “

Kenneth Depuydt, partner of Creafund added “We are extremely pleased to accelerate the strategic growth plan of Sitra by adding Abbey to our ambitious Group. We truly value the professionalism, the entrepreneurship, the reputation and all stakeholders, including all employees of Abbey tremendously.

“We hence warmly welcome Abbey as part of our Group and look forward to further consolidating the food logistics market together.”

Abbey was advised by KPMG and DWF and Sitra was advised by EY.