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Mike Knowles



Univeg's annual sales rise to €3.2bn

Greenyard Foods' fresh produce division has overcome the loss of a key client in Germany to improve its financial position

Univeg's annual sales rise to €3.2bn

Greenyard Foods chief executive Marleen Vaesen

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Belgian fruit and vegetable company Univeg, which now operates as the fresh produce division of Greenyard Foods, appears to have overcome the loss of a major client in Germany – understood to be a discount operator and a major buyer of bananas – to record a 2.4 per cent increase in annual sales to €3.2bn, up €74.8m on the previous year.

But its so-called recurring earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Rebitda) for the year were €77.3m, down 3.8 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Nevertheless, the company appears to be in a stronger financial position as far as its borrowings are concerned, having reported net financial debt of €190.6m for the end of 2015, down €40m or 17.3 per cent versus the end of 2014.

Following its takeover by listed company Greenyard back in the summer of 2015, Univeg’s results are now made public, offering a new insight into the financial standing of one of the produce industry’s largest companies.

Greenyard attributed Univeg’s improved sales to volume growth with key customers as well as price increases.

“The top line growth illustrates the robust nature of the business and the group’s flexibility to rebalance flows within its existing customer base after its decision to discontinue a key customer in Germany in early 2015,” a spokesperson said.

Marleen Vaesen, chief executive of Greenyard Foods, commented: “Our sales continue to grow during the 12 months until December 2015 thanks to the successful rebalancing of our customer portfolio.”

For the first time in 2015, she said, the fresh division was able to report an increase in its Rebitda on a quarterly basis. “This clearly illustrates the robust nature of our core fresh business and our flexibility to rebalance flows within our existing customer base," it said.

“We continue to work with our key clients to grow volumes, benefit from operational efficiencies and further optimise our customer portfolio to gain new and sustainable business.”

Closing the gap

Univeg’s sales from continuing operations reached €751.9m in the three months to 31 December 2015, a decrease of €18.1m, or 2.3 per cent.

Its Rebitda in Q4 reached €18.8m, up €1.4m or 8 per cent compared with the same figure for the last three months of 2014.

The equivalent earnings figure for 2015 was reportedly up for the first time in 2015 as a strong underlying performance in Univeg’s main markets outpaced the negative impact of dropping its German customer.

Year-to-date Rebitda came in at €74.3m, a decline of 3.8 per cent versus 2014, but an apparent improvement against the third quarter when Rebitda was still down 7.3 per cent.

The decline of €3.0m compared with 2014 was reportedly driven by changes in the customer portfolio as well as higher costs, partly curbed by strong performance in its main markets.

The group said it was well-positioned to further close the gap in the short term.

In order to align its financial reporting with Greenyard Foods, Univeg's current financial year will consist of five quarters and end on 31 March 2016.

The publication of the parent group's consolidated results for the period ending 31 March is scheduled for 7 June.

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