“This has been a difficult decision,” said John Hardman, Countrywide Farmers chief executive, “and comes at the end of a significant strategic review of how best we can deliver sustainable improvement in shareholder value.”
Like UK farming, the Agri supply industry is rapidly evolving to cope with the changing global market and the challenges and opportunities this brings. To compete requires significant investment to create economies of scale and cost efficiencies and in the long term a more sustainable UK supply trade.
“We have concluded that Countrywide Farmers can best serve its customers and shareholders by investing in our Countrystore network and multichannel platform rather than our direct to farm business,” continues Mr Hardman.
“Our farm trading businesses have built a strong relationship over the years and this is reflected in the acquiring companies who are all market leaders in their own right. They have been carefully selected by the Countrywide Board as being, we believe, the best fit for our customers and staff alike.”
The Livestock Feed and Forage business, comprising compound and alternative feeds, fertilizer and forage seeds, is being sold to ForFarmers. The Arable business, which sells crop protection and cereal seed products is being sold to Hutchinsons and terms have been agreed for the sale of the Crop Marketing business to Openfield.
The Countrywide teams within these businesses will transfer to the respective purchaser. The Countrywide Board believes the acquiring businesses will provide long term stability and wider career opportunities for the Countrywide teams as well as supporting them with the best products and service for their customers. Overall the sale of these businesses will affect around 80 staff.
The disposals will allow the Company to focus and invest in their Countrystore retail network of 53 stores across England and Wales, its Energy business which supplies bulk LPG and bottled gas to the rural community and its Turf and Amenity business which is developing a strong market position. The Directors believe that Countrywide holds a competitive advantage in these areas and that these three businesses have the potential to deliver long term growth.
As announced in the Annual Report published in August 2014 a strategic review of our retail business, led by Berkley Partnership, has demonstrated a clear path for Countrywide Farmers to become the leading multichannel Country store business in the UK. The net funds received from these disposals will provide the financial resources to deliver this strategy, including the implementation of Project Fusion which will provide the operating platform to support this ambition.
“We remain committed to UK farming,” says Mr Hardman “supporting farmers with over 7,000 agriculture products available in store, catalogue and on line, all reinforced by a dedicated field sales team. Our new focus and ability to invest will ensure we are well positioned to execute our strategy and to grow the business into a leading multichannel supplier to the UK’s rural community.”
“I would like to thank all the staff who have worked within the businesses that we are selling. We are very grateful for their contribution and I sincerely hope that they will thrive following this new step for those businesses,” concludes Mr Hardman.