Coucke is brooding on entry to Greenyard

Marc Coucke is close to entering Hein Deprez’s fruit and vegetable group Greenyard. According to our information, this would involve a capital injection of around EUR 50 million.

The deal is not yet final, but talks are already underway between the parties involved. If the new capital amounts to 50 million euros, this will give Coucke an interest of approximately 13.5 percent in Greenyard. There is something on the table. But it has certainly not been finalized and the amount has not yet been determined, ‘says an observer. Coucke could not be reached.

The entry of the entrepreneur-investor seems well timed. Greenyard is listed on the stock exchange at around 7.4 euros per share, the same level as at the beginning of 2019, but well below the price of the previous years.

The operation with Coucke appears to be one of the pieces of the puzzle of a major financial redraw at Greenyard.

When Coucke comes on board, he will bump into an old acquaintance there. Since April last year, his business partner Joris Ide owns 3 percent of the fruit and vegetable group. Coucke and Ide have jointly owned 74 percent of RSC Anderlecht for several years. The Hein Deprez family is the main shareholder of Greenyard with almost half (49.3%) of the shares.

Pairi Daiza

As is known, Coucke is also co-owner of the Pairi Daiza animal park, the Versluys construction group and the operator of the indoor ski halls SnowWorld. He is also a shareholder of the pharmaceutical groups Mithra and Fagron, the photo company Smartphoto and the cookie baker Lotus Bakeries. In recent months, he has also surfaced in the capital of the real estate companies VGP, Immobel and Xior.

The operation with Coucke appears to be one of the pieces of the puzzle of a major financial redraw at Greenyard. At the beginning of this year, Marc Zwaaneveld, who joined Hein Deprez as co-CEO in early 2019, said that the group planned to refinance some 500 million euros in debt by the end of March.

Coucke’s investment would give Greenyard a breath of fresh air after the profound reorganization of recent years. Under the impulse of Zwaaneveld, the debt-laden fruit and vegetable group sold its Portuguese transport branch, the Hungarian factory where a listeria infection broke out at the end of 2018 and its British flower wholesaler. Greenyard also cut 422 jobs.

Thanks to these measures and a regained profitability and cash flow, the stock market-listed greengrocer’s mountain of debt – the sword of Damocles hanging over the company – fell faster than anticipated. When Zwaaneveld came on board, net debt represented 7.1 times adjusted gross operating profit. At the end of March, at the end of the broken financial year, that should be about 3.5 times.

Greenyard is not the only strategic deal that Coucke is working on. The entrepreneur works in parallel with the IPO of the water purification company Ekopak, of which he owns 49 percent. Ekopak wants to raise at least 50 million euros through the sale of mainly new shares. The former CEO of Omega Pharma is also considering a (partial) sale of the distributor of prescription-free medicines Ceres Pharma, the ‘mini Omega Pharma’. He owns 80 percent of that company.

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