Tholen – It was not unknown in the market that there were problems at Codema Systems Group. With the bankruptcy yesterday, more than sixty years of horticultural history end. At the same time, various parties are already showing interest in taking over parts of the horticultural supplier. The curator, who is busy limiting injuries and ensuring continuity, talks about ‘many interested parties’.
HAWE, the predecessor of Codema, was founded in 1958 by brothers Herman and Huub Wooning. They are also taking the first steps across the border with their electric wagons for internal logistics and mobile container systems. In 1998, the company, which is now also active in project development, was taken over by Maarten de Jager and merged with the aluminum producer WEVAB. Following the acquisition of SDF in 2002 and BE De Liers in 2011, the company continued since 2016 under the name Codema.
The market has been circulating for a long time about the many personnel changes within the company since Nordian Capital’s acquisition of Codema in 2018. A spokesman for the company points to the sharp increase in turnover in 2018 and 2019, thanks to the good business, which i.a. is made in China and Canada. A branch was opened in China in 2019. However, 2020 had worse numbers, according to the company spokesman, caused by the corona, although it ‘was not really crucial’ in Canada, and major setbacks in both countries. “The pandemic and travel restrictions made acquisitions abroad more difficult and projects more difficult to implement. Especially in the markets where Codema did good business in previous years or so good prospects. What also did not help was that working from home provided no alternative to working. “It seems that Codema has been hit harder than comparable companies.”
Added to this is recent market developments, such as higher raw material prices, transport and material costs, and geopolitical developments that made it difficult for Codema’s customers and also difficult for the company itself to recover. “It has been noted that the willingness to invest among growers is declining.”
Circumstances that may also affect other parties, but which, according to the spokesman, in combination and in strength have created a unique situation for Codema. A recent analysis of private equity in horticulture showed that Codema saw its turnover almost halved in 2020 to 44 million euros, and that it realized an EBITDA of minus 1.5 million euros. The debt burden amounted to 13 million euros rounded off by the end of 2020.
Whether the financing burden since the private equity Nordian Capital’s acquisition in 2018 also contributes to this unique situation can not be said at present, the spokesperson says. “It’s up to the curator.” The latter, CFWA Hamm van Borsboom & Hamm Advocaten from Rotterdam, says the investor ‘is just a creditor’ who ‘does not put any money on the table’.
Nordian Capital does not itself accept the bankruptcy petition and refers to Codema for an explanation. “Due to a number of – often unpredictable – reasons, the international market in which Codema operates has deteriorated enormously in recent years, and this has had a direct impact on Codema’s business operations,” says partner Joost Verbeek.
In any case, a new board of directors was appointed last year, which has recently been searching intensively for a strong financial partner who could take over the company, for financial strength to continue the company. The Belgian branch of the company was sold to Bosman Van Zaal. “In the end, it was not possible to find a takeover candidate for the entire package. Bankruptcy is, of course, the last resort you want, especially for the 140 employees, “the spokesman said. Yesterday, the management itself announced the sad news of the bankruptcy to the staff at the locations in Bergschenhoek and Venlo.
At the same time, there is hope that the curator can restart the salable parts, something that will hopefully soon become clearer, and that the market is already showing interest. A lot of interest actually, let the curator know. His first concern now is to limit the damage, ensure continuity, try to push important projects through and secure employment. “There is no need to panic. It is an unusual situation, but as always we do everything we can to transfer the company as smoothly as possible. If we do it right, no one will realize what happens at the end of Year. Has happened now. “
The trustee is currently consulting with the bank on financing for the continuation of important projects, possibly by transfer to new companies. “We try to limit the damage and visualize how much continuing projects cost and whether it can be funded.”
Curator emphasizes that he is looking for serious parties who know the sector and the customer base for takeover candidates. The fact that bankruptcy has now been declared makes it easier for such parties. “Before a bankruptcy, you have to take over all the debt. After bankruptcy, you do not. It makes it easier and cheaper for such parties.” Before the bankruptcy, the ‘main interests’ have already been informed. Curator expects to spend four weeks selling business units. ‘A professional party’ is hired to ensure that the process runs smoothly.
The question is whether investor Nordian Capital’s horticultural adventure has ended in bankruptcy. Not so much, they say. “We evaluate each new investment based on the following criteria: a company with a focus on growth, a head office in the Netherlands, a profitable company, a significant customer proposal, innovative R&D, growth potential in new areas or the opportunity to become a market leader in (niche) markets This also applies to potential new investments in the horticultural sector. “
CFWA Hamm van Borsboom & Hamm The lawyer from Rotterdam has been appointed curator. The bankruptcy of Codema Systems Group BV is registered under reference: 10.rot.22.91.F.1300.1.22. Codema EMEA BV and Codema Nederland BV have also been declared bankrupt.