United Agri Products in MBO and acquisition from US-based ConAgra Group


United Agri Products Limited (UAP), a leading supplier and distributor of agrochemicals to farmers and growers across the UK has undergone a management buy-out for an undisclosed sum advised by the Nottingham offices of Clearwater Corporate Finance and Freeth Cartwright, and funded by Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance.

Previously part of the US-based ConAgra Foods group, the £80 million turnover business provides a comprehensive crop management advice service to UK farmers and growers.

Simultaneously part of the MBO is acquiring French-based Phyto Service SAS which together with UAP made up Con Agra’s European agrochemical supply operations.

Based in Alconbury, Cambridgeshire and with depots throughout the country (see notes to editors), UAP advises farmers and growers on crop protection and supplies a full range of agrochemicals and crop management products.

UAP also has a contract spraying service – one of the largest of its kind with 14 spraying units across the UK.

The company employs 250 people and also has seven mobile seed treating units operating nationally.

Based in North West France in Blois, Phyto Service (PS) is a £25 million turnover business operating 18 depots and stores throughout the region. The company has over 12,000 customers, who complete 50,000 transactions per year.

ConAgra Foods is a food processing group focused on higher margin branded and value added food products. The company has chosen to dispose of both businesses as they had become non-core to the groups continuing strategy.

The Clearwater team of Paul Newell and Dan Bowtell originated the deal through its international network. Funding the deal is the Midlands office of Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance (David Brunton, Nigel Roberts and John Dowd).

Stephen Derbyshire – managing director and Chris Matthews – commercial director are heading up the MBO team. Derbyshire commented: “It is pretty much business as usual – we will continue to focus on supplying cost-effective crop production programmes for UK farmers and growers.

“Our agronomists are some of the best in the UK and, with the support of our manufacturing partners are well placed to help UK farmers and growers compete in an increasingly difficult marketplace. One of the longer term aims for PS is to create a true national alternative in France and to hopefully expand this business both geographically and in revenue and profit terms.”

Clearwater partner Paul Newell added: “UAP is a well established business and is well known and respected by farmers throughout the UK. This is an important step for the management team in taking control of UAP and the business is now well placed to re-enforce its strong market position.”

David Brunton, senior regional manager with Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance said his team had begun work on the deal as long ago as last summer. “It was a fantastic effort, with the vendors, advisers and management all working together over a long period of time to reach a satisfactory outcome.”

Lawyers to the management team were Freeth Cartwright in the UK (Philip Raven, Philip Baigent, Darren Kamen and Bob Neal) and Fourgoux & Associes in France (Vincent Roux and Jean-Louis Fourgoux). Lawyers to Lloyds TSB were Gateley Wareing (Gareth John).

Freeth Cartwright’s Philip Raven added; “This was an unusual transaction as a French and a UK based business were purchased but all the funding was raised on the back of the UK based business. This made for an innovative funding and security structure involving close cooperation between Lloyds TSB’s and management team’s UK and French lawyers.”