Kent-based Bardsley England – which has been growing fruit since 1892 – acquired the assets of nearby competitor, Newmafruit, following the news its owner is exiting the industry and retiring.

Newmafruit, a neighbouring, family run business, owns over 485 hectares of fruit producing land.

As one of the UK’s leading fruit farming specialists, Bardsley England produces approximately 10,000 tonnes of fruit, with the acquisition of Newmafruit increasing this volume to 23,000 tonnes. This volume makes up a proportion of the 35,000 tonnes of fruit which is stored, graded, packed and distributed through Bardsley England’s state of the art packhouse facility based at their HQ.

The fifth generation business will now operate across 820 hectares of productive orchards and agricultural land across Kent.

Ben Bardsley, Managing Director at Bardsley England, believes the acquisition places the business in prime position for expansion. He commented: “Newmafruit is an excellent addition to the Bardsley England group and this is a great opportunity for the business. It will enable us to increase our offering of top and stone fruit to the UK market and therefore enhance the strategic partnerships and alliances we have already forged.

“The significant funding provided by Shawbrook has not only secured our growth by allowing us to purchase and implement the trading assets of Newmafruit into the Bardsley England organisation but also enables us to focus on strengthening our position as one of the leading top fruit producers in the UK. Our future goals of a fully automated business are one step closer, with the assistance of this funding and plans to implement game changing technology into our business we will in time see full digitalisation across the entire supply chain, further cementing our offering to the market.”

He added: “Given their focus on UK business and experience of lending to the agriculture and horticulture sector, Shawbrook has been a supportive and flexible partner throughout this transaction. They could see the long-term benefits of the acquisition to us and acted quickly to get the funding facility in place and approved. They also worked to accelerated timescales while coping with the unprecedented challenges of lockdown, both issues that would have stumped other funders potentially in the mix.”

Bardsley England were introduced to Shawbrook by Castle Corporate Finance, a leading adviser to UK owner-managed businesses, with offices in Kent and London.

Victoria Ansell, Director at Castle Corporate Finance, said: “We were delighted to work with Ben and the team at Bardsley England on this transformative transaction, and to be instrumental in facilitating the next stage of the business’ growth.

“Shawbrook Bank were supportive from the off, really getting behind the group’s potential, and we believe they will be an excellent funding partner over the coming years. There were challenges along the way – not least due to lockdown – but everyone pulled together to get the deal done in an incredibly tight timescale. We are sure that Bardsley England have an exciting future ahead of them.”

Shawbrook provided funding for both the acquisition and ongoing working capital, incorporating a highly flexible profile to recognise the seasonal nature of the business and its cashflow.

Steven Munt, Director of Corporate Lending at Shawbrook Bank, said: “Due to the current circumstances caused by the emergence and spread of Coronavirus, this was a challenging transaction with several moving parts involving asset transfers, lease assignments and freehold property to be valued and charged.

“However, these types of projects are exactly what we thrive on at Shawbrook. The fact that we had to navigate difficulties associated with Covid added to the satisfaction of successfully delivering this facility for Bardsley England.”

Since Bardsley England’s current MD, Ben Bardsley, took over the reins six years ago, the business has undergone a period of rapid growth. Significant milestones to achieve this have included forming an alliance with Belgian multinational Greenyard in 2016 and other considerable growth from the acquisition of Highland Court Farm in 2018 which added 9000 tonnes of growing capacity to the Bardsley England group.

Mr. Munt continued: “This is an exciting project for Bardsley England, which has been trading for almost 130 years. We believe this acquisition provides them with the potential to expand the business further and we are delighted to have played our part in what I’m sure will be a successful future.”