Science - June 30, 2005

Counterbid for nutrition research

Investor and Wageningen alumnus Jan Hak wants to make a counterbid for part of the nutrition research done by A&F. Wageningen is currently conducting negotiations with the nutrition research institute Nizo.

Last week the executive board presented its plan to the works council concerning the transfer part of the nutrition research done by A&F to Nizo. Personnel at A&F are not pleased with the plan, as it offers no guarantees to employees. Hak wrote a letter this week to the president of the executive board, Professor Aalt Dijkhuizen, with a request to draw up an alternative plan together with the members of staff involved.

Since he sold his family vegetable preserving business, Hak has been a private investor and also president of the branch association for the manufacturers of equipment for the food industry. According to Hak, this branch has a strategic interest in the continued existence of the A&F research group. He says there are various partners who are willing to invest in an independent research group. ‘We would like to see an accessible institute with competitive rates. The old ATO (Agrotechnology Research) was exactly that during the 1990s. In recent years there has been a decline, but there it still has potential that is unique in the world.’

Hak believes that an independent nutrition research department would be financially viable. ‘At present the overheads are gigantic, and the buildings cost a fortune, far too much.’ According to Hak, a transfer to Nizo would be bad for the Dutch food industry. ‘At Nizo they are too confined to the dairy sector only, and I don’t think that A&F’s tariffs will go down if they go there.’

Hak is prepared to invest in a new start. ‘I have made some calculations with a number of partners, and we think that we can make a better offer than Nizo. Of course that’s not so difficult: as far as we can tell it’s only Nizo that stands to gain from the current deal.’ The executive board has confirmed that Hak has made an offer, but was unavailable for comment. / KV

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