Bardsley England

Global agriculture group Camellia Plc has purchased an 80 per cent stake in Kent fruit grower Bardsley England.

Bardsley England is the UK’s second-largest apple grower with a farming operation covering 850 hectares in Kent, and has 27 orchards growing apples, pears, cherries, plums and grapes as well as a large grading, packing and storage facility.

The business is regarded asan innovator in the use of agritech, employing technology such as micro-climate sensors to monitor for adverse weather and wet leaf sensors to give early indication of pests and disease. It uses a combination of trailer-mounted machine vision devices and remote satellite technology to improve yield predictions and crop management.

The transaction, for £15.7 million, also sees Camellia handing Bardsley a £9.3m loan. Camellia explained that the consideration, which is being satisfied from existing resources, is payable as to £12.7m, which was paid at completion with the balance of £3m deferred and payable by July 2022.

Of the total consideration, approximately £9.7m is being used to subscribe for new shares in the business, with the remainder being used to purchase existing shares. In addition to strengthening Bardsley’s balance sheet, the company said the investment by Camellia will 'support growth and ensure the business is able to invest further in developing its packing operations and extending its orchards.' The loan will largely be used to repay Bardsley’s existing borrowings.

Greenyard jv ends

In related news, Greenyard and Bardsley Horticulture announced that Bardsley has acquired all shares held by Greenyard Fresh UK in Bardsley Fruit Enterprises, meaning the two companies will no longer operate the joint venture.

Through the jv created in 2017, both companies developed a highly automated packing facility, but the new agreement means Bardsley takes over the packing operation, while Greenyard will support the efficiency of the operation by continuing to process topfruit via the site under a long-term commercial agreement.

Growing business

Bardsley England has caught the eye in recent years for its growth and use of innovative growing techniques. The business operates through a number of UK companies, and for the year ended 31 March 2021 it had revenue of £22.4m and recorded an unaudited loss before tax of £1.7m. Gross assets of the business at that date were £26.2m and net assets were £8.3m.

The effect of the acquisition on Camellia’s pre-tax profit for 2021 is expected to be broadly neutral before deal costs of £1.2m, but is expected to be significantly earnings enhancing in 2022.

Camellia - a global agricultural group specialising in bearer plants - said that the deal will bring Bardsley access to a wider customer base and lower cost of finance. It added that Bardsley’s packhouse operations offer synergies with Camellia’s avocado, macadamia and blueberry businesses, and works with many of the same customers.

Camellia chief executive Tom Franks said: '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. 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.”