Evesham-based Countrywide Farmers plc, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products, services and advice to the rural community, has entered administration.
The country retailer has a total of 48 stores across the West of England and into Oxfordshire.
Countrywide comprised a profitable LPG business and an unprofitable retail business, together with a significant legacy pension scheme liability and a freehold property portfolio.
Last October, the Board agreed terms to sell its retail business to Mole Valley Farmers Ltd, a move subject to review by the Competition and Markets Authority.
This business sale did not go fast enough, so Countrywide sold its profitable LPG business to Republic of Ireland-based DCC plc. The deal was completed on the 1stMarch 2018 for a value of £28.75 million. Proceeds from this sale have been largely used to pay down banking facilities with HSBC.
However, the sale of the retail business has not received approval to proceed from the Competition and Markets Authority and has been referred into a Phase 2 process, which can take up to six months to conclude.
The delay appears to have dealt the final card for Countrywide Farmers and the Board filed a notice appointing David Pike, Mark Orton and William Wright, partners of KPMG LLP to act as administrators of the Company.
The Countrywide Farmers statement concluded: “It is with significant regret that the Countrywide Retail business which trades from 48 stores and employs over 700 staff will now face a very uncertain future.”
The Joint Administrators’ intend to seek a purchaser for the business in whole or part and Hilco Capital has been appointed to assist in running the stores whilst the explore and develop available options.
The business launched in 1902 when Beckford Farmers merged with Winchcombe, Toddington & Cotswold Farmers Association to form West Midland Farmers Association Limited. In 1999 and the business became known as Countrywide Farmers Plc.