Belfast Telegraph

Around 30 people made redundant at Palmer & Harvey in Northern Ireland after UK wholesaler went bust

By Margaret Canning

Around 30 people have been made redundant at Palmer & Harvey in Northern Ireland after the UK wholesaler went bust leaving a total of 2,500 people without a job.

And the jobs of another 17 people are at risk as a result of the move by the directors of the company.

The 30 people were made redundant without notice yesterday after PwC was appointed administrator to the firm by the High Court in London in a long-anticipated move.

It had a total of 47 employees at the Mallusk depot, from which deliveries of cigarettes and other consumer goods were made to convenience stores around the province.

The company is the UK’s biggest supplier of cigarettes. 

PwC said the remaining 17 staff were being kept on to work on winding down the company’s activities.

However, it’s understood they will also be made redundant when the company is fully closed down.

PwC described Palmer & Harvey McLane as the UK’s largest delivery wholesaler to the UK convenience market.

It has around 90,000 customers ranging from small corner stores to big supermarkets. 

PwC said: “The group has been by hit by challenging trading conditions in recent months and efforts to restructure the business have been unsuccessful.

“This has resulted in cash flow pressures and it has not been possible to secure additional funding to support the business.”

Matthew Callaghan, joint administrator and PwC partner, said: “The Palmer & Harvey name has been a trusted partner for retailers and suppliers for nearly 100 years.

“This is a devastating blow for everyone who has been involved in the business. The administration team will focus on working with employees, clients and suppliers to facilitate a smooth and effective wind-down or transfer of operations over the next few weeks.

“The P&H Group has faced a challenging trading environment, and the need for significant restructuring has been recognised for some time. The company has insufficient cash resources to continue to trade beyond the short term and the directors have concluded that there is no longer any reasonable prospect of a sale.

“Therefore, the directors have had no choice but appoint administrators.

“The administrators are working closely with employees affected by the closure of the business to ensure they receive the support they need during this difficult time to assist with their claims for redundancy and other compensatory payments.

“Our priority is to ensure that all employees made redundant are assisted in processing their claims with immediate effect.

The group entered exclusive takeover talks with the Carlyle Group in October, but the US private equity fund’s offer of a significant capital investment in exchange for a controlling stake did not progress.

A spokesman at Japan Tobacco International (JTI) — which makes brands of cigarettes including said: “JTI can confirm it was informed today that Palmer & Harvey had unfortunately entered administration.

“Throughout the whole process JTI has worked continuously to facilitate a constructive solution to the P&H Group’s challenges including extending significant financial and operational support to allow P&H to continue its operations. Regrettably our considerable efforts were not successful.

“We have a contingency plan in place and we do not expect any significant interruption in the supply of our products.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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