ONE of the borough's most prominent employers is now in new hands after a scotched merger deal, it has been confirmed.

Bosses at food safety specialists Holchem were told earlier this month by the Competition and Markets Authority that their acquisition by US rivals Ecolab was a non-starter.

But now the Pilsworth operation has been bought out by the French outfit Kersia, with the new venture said to be second largest in Europe in the sector.

Private investors Ardian have backed the deal, which will see the Bury site and a sister factory in Liphook come under the Kersia wing.

Sébastien Bossard, Kersia's chief executive, said: "We are thrilled to welcome the Holchem teams to the Group. Their DNA, the quality of their work, the experience of their employees, their solutions, their services, strongly oriented towards the food industry in the UK and Ireland, make them very complementary to our current operations.

"This merger will enable us to make new solutions and services available to Kersia's customers throughout the world, and in the same way, will provide Holchem's local teams and customers with Kersia's solutions to help combat contamination by pathogens of the food chain in one of the world's largest food processing regions."

Stuart Middleton, Holchem's managing drector, added: “Over the years, Holchem has built a prominent position in the hygiene and food safety solutions market in the UK and Ireland thanks to its comprehensive and innovative offering.

"We can be proud of what our managers and employees have achieved. We are very excited to join the Kersia Group of companies, which has become a global leader in food safety in a few years, and we look forward to contributing to Kersia Group’s growth, both in our home markets and globally.

"We believe that this important transaction will bring many opportunities to all our employees and our customers in the combined organisation.”

Thibault Basquin, an investment head at Ardia, said: "The partnership with Holchem will enable Kersia to become truly global, and Europe’s second largest player in food safety."

Disinfectant and hand hygiene products have been a focus for both Holchem and Kersia during the current coronavirus crisis, says officials.

The deal means Kersia now operates in 120 countries, with a global turnover of €300 million.