Cooks Food Group agrees to buy global rights to Esquires Coffee Houses

The aim is to become a global retail and supply chain business aligned with Esquires.

Cooks Food Group, a shell company whose shares have not traded the past four months, agreed to buy the franchise rights for Esquires Coffee Houses in many parts of the world.

Cooks, which aims to become a global retail and supply chain business aligned with Esquires, agreed to pay Esquires founders Stuart and Lewis Deeks $300,000 in cash and an undisclosed number of shares for the franchisee rights for the coffee houses worldwide, excluding New Zealand, Australia and Canada, the Auckland-based company says in a statement.

Cooks gained a back-door listing to the New Zealand stock exchange small cap market NZAX in 2008 in an attempt to build a major New Zealand-owned listed food business.

The following year, it abandoned a plan to buy the Diamond pasta and DYC vinegar labels from Goodman Fielder, instead selling its assets to Australian company Hutchinsons for $4 million and allowing Hutchinsons to settle the proposed acquisition.

Cooks is also in talks to buy a New Zealand-based food processing business and some overseas retail businesses, the company says. It plans to change its name to Cooks Global Foods should the transactions be approved.

The company wants to sell more than $4 million in shares to fund its acquisitions and provide working capital for the new group. New debt facilities have been conditionally agreed with its bankers, the company said.

Shares in Cooks last traded for 10 cents on January 31, valuing the company at about $2.8 million.

The agreement with the Esquires' founders provides for a further issue of shares should the group outperform, which would take their holding in Cooks to more than 50 percent.