LONDON — Global agriculture group Camellia Plc has purchased an 80% stake in Bardsley England for £15.7m while also making a loan to Bardsley of £9.3m.
Bardsley England, a major fruit farming business whose customers include many major supermarkets, is the UK’s second largest apple grower, with a farming operation that covers 850 hectares (2,100 acres) in Kent and includes 27 orchards that grows apples, pears, cherries, plums and grapes. It also features a large grading, packing and storage facility.
“We have been looking for some time to increase our focus on agriculture where we have deep skills, and to increase our operations in the UK. Bardsley helps with both,” Tom Franks, CEO at Camellia, commented. “It is located close to our HQ in Kent, which is the premier region for apple growing in the country. We look forward to partnering with the Bardsley family in the future.”
Bardsley grows nearly 18,000 tonnes of fruit per year, and at peak season it employs 550 staff. An innovator in the use of agritech, it utilises technology such as micro-climate sensors to monitor for adverse weather and wet leaf sensors to give early indication of pests and disease. It also uses a combination of trailer-mounted machine vision devices and remote satellite technology to improve yield predictions and crop management.
In addition to strengthening Bardsley’s balance sheet, Camellia says the investment will support growth and ensure the business is able to invest further in developing its packing operations and extending its orchards. The loan primarily will be used to repay Bardsley’s existing borrowings.
The effect of the acquisition on Camellia’s profit before tax for 2021 is expected to be broadly neutral before deal costs of £1.2m but is expected to be significantly earnings enhancing in 2022.
Benefits of the acquisition
- Camellia specialises in plants (plants that produce regular crops, such as fruit trees). It is continually looking to diversify its product and geographical portfolio, and Bardsley helps do both.
- As part of Camellia, Bardsley will have access to a wider customer base and lower cost of finance.
- Bardsley’s packhouse operations offers synergies with Camellia’s avocado, macadamia and blueberry businesses and works with many of the same customers.
- Bardsley is a cash-generative operation.
- Bardsley being in the UK will improve Camellia’s effective tax rate.