Belfast Telegraph

Westland snaps up troubled fertiliser company in England

By Margaret Canning

Co Tyrone horticulture firm Westland has bought the assets of an English company in a multi-million pound deal.

William Sinclair Holdings plc had been put into administration last Friday after revealing at the end of May that it was facing a funding shortfall.

Administrators KPMG sold the assets and brands of the failed company to Westland straight away.

Westland, which was set up in Dungannon in 1990, now owns William Sinclair fertiliser brands such as J Arthur Bowers and Growing Success.

They join a portfolio of Westland brands such as Unwins seeds and wild bird feed ranges Peckish and Nature's Feast.

Westland's acquisition of William Sinclair in Lincolnshire - its first since buying Cranswick Pet Products in 2012 - was backed by a multi-million pound loan from Danske Bank.

Westland's joint managing director Edward Conroy said the deal would expand its business in the UK.

"This acquisition will bring much needed stability to William Sinclair's business and brands starting from today," he said.

"We have always believed that Sinclair's is an important part of our industry's landscape, and we are fully committed to maintaining this for the long term.

"Sinclair's is fundamentally a good business with strong consumer brands which can now only thrive from being part of the Westland family."

Westland has also bought Sinclair's trading premises and a manufacturing plant in Ellesemere Port, England.

The Co Tyrone firm started out producing compost but now supplies a huge range of gardening products. It had turnover of £106m and pre-tax profits of £6.6m in the last financial year.

The company last month announced plans to create 70 new jobs as part of a £9.6m investment in a new fertiliser plant in Co Tyrone.

Westland finance director Scott Dougherty said Danske had been able to move quickly to back the deal.

"The overall level of support available, together with the management of the process to completion, was essential to the success of the acquisition," he said.

Danske Bank previously backed Westland's £18m acquisition of Cranswick Pet Foods in 2012. The bank's senior acquisition manager Aaron Ennis said the deal was "one of the most significant so far this year by a Northern Ireland company".

He predicted that growing economic confidence would see the number of merger & acquisition deals accelerate between now and the end of the year.

Belfast Telegraph