Marc Coucke enters vegetable giant Greenyard

With a capital injection by Marc Coucke and his partner Joris Ide and an accompanying refinancing, the vegetable giant is de facto drawing a line under the years of worry about the mountain of debt. The share is recovering sharply.

The entrepreneur Marc Coucke enters the capital of Greenyard

. The fruit and vegetable giant confirms this in a press release, after De Tijd reported this weekend about the upcoming deal.

Coucke, together with another Flemish entrepreneur, Joris Ide, is putting 50 million fresh money into Greenyard. Ide had already built up a first interest in the group last year. Coucke puts 48.5 million euros on the table, Ide 1.5 million. They step in at a price of 7 euros per share, a discount of 6.5 percent on the closing price of Greenyard on Friday evening.

Dilution

In exchange for the contribution, Coucke will receive a 13.4 percent interest in Greenyard and a seat on the board of directors. The entry dilutes the current major shareholder, Hein Deprez. According to our calculations, this would drop from the current 49.3 percent to a good 40 percent. With an otherwise fragmented shareholding, this is still a controlling interest.

Together with the capital injection, Greenyard has also completed a debt restructuring. The group refinances, ‘on market terms’, for 467.5 million debts with a guarantee from the Flemish government. The new debts have a term of three years, which can be extended by one year.

In other words, the repayments are shifted further into the future. Not only the existing bank debts will be refinanced this way, but also the bond loan of 125 million which matures in December.

With the double deal, Greenyard says it will have capped its debt mountain by the end of its fiscal year on March 31 to three times its gross operating profit (EBITDA), up from 3.5 times previously. This is a boost for a company that two years ago was in danger of collapsing under the high debt burden due to a battered cash flow. That ratio does not take factoring into account. ‘We don’t include that in our debt ratio. Factoring is a payment method that allows us to get our invoices paid faster. We do not consider that to be a fault, ‘Greenyard says.

Remediation

The fruit and vegetable concern has drastically restructured its portfolio in recent years, through crisis manager Marc Zwaaneveld. Various business units left the company, while profitability also clearly improved over the past financial year.

In the first nine months of the financial year, turnover rose 10 percent. Greenyard forecasts an EBITDA of around 110 million euros for the financial year to 31 March, compared to 96 million in the previous financial year and 65 million for the 2018/19 financial year.

Investors are enthusiastic about the debt refinancing – which in fact draws a line under the years of worry about the (too) high debts. The share on the Brussels stock exchange is up 19 percent higher on Monday.

Three questions for Marc Zwaaneveld and Hein Deprez

Is this the final piece of the transformation that started two years ago?

‘Yes. With this we create a new basis for all stakeholders and the uncertainty is out of the market. Greenyard is now a resilient and much more stable company. A company that can take a beating. We are back.
So a lot of work has been done. But we are now continuing on our multi-year plan. We have every confidence that we can further expand our leading position. ‘

You are now getting more financial breathing space. But can the ratio between debt and gross operating profit (EBITDA) be lower?

‘Based on the current long-term plans, we aim for a debt burden of 2 to 2.5 times the EBITDA. Initially we wanted to achieve that after two years, but now we assume that we will be able to do so in the course of the second year. ‘

Is there room to pay out a dividend again?

‘The ratio between debt and EBITDA must first drop to 2 to 2.5 times. Only then can we see what the options are. ‘

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