Empire World Trade Ltd (EWT), the importer and distributor of high quality fruit has undergone a buy-out of its institutional investor 3i backed by Livingbridge and HSBC Leveraged Finance. 3i has been invested in EWT since it backed the MBO led by Dick Lowes in 1997. Today’s exit represents a 41% IRR for 3i.
The deal, which was led by Clearwater International’s Phil Burns and Karen Edwards, will see 3i exit the business. With an £80 million plus turnover EWT is a key supplier of fruit to the big retailers including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons. The company currently imports just under 15 per cent of the UK apples market.
With strong relationships with its suppliers across the globe, EWT is a key leader in a sector which is seeing continued growth with healthy eating habits being more of a priority and in the growing organic market. EWT is one of the leading UK suppliers of organic apples and pears.
Established 18 years ago, EWT is based at a modern 62,866sq foot site in Spalding, Lincolnshire. The company also has an operation at Bristol Port enabling it to bring vessels into the country utilising the port’s state of the art warehouse facility. EWT has its own in-house grading and packing, ensuring control of the fruit to meet its service levels to customers. Last year EWT established its own English orchard and is also rapidly developing its business in stonefruit targeting other exciting complementary projects.