735 jobs at risk as administrators appointed

The decision yesterday by the Competition and Markets Authority to refer Countrywide Farmers’ sale of its 48 stores to Mole Valley has proven to be the final straw, with administrators called in today.

735 jobs are now at risk at the Evesham-headquartered business, which sells farming, equestrian, harvesting and agricultural supplies, although no redundancies have yet been made.

The news came hours after New Look revealed it planned to enter into a CVA, threatening nearly 1,000 jobs.

Countrywide Farmers has been restructuring for the last year and had completed the sale of its LPG business to DCC Flogas last week, which resulted in 60 employees transferring.

However the sale of its retail stores to Mole Valley, which was agreed in October, had been held up by competition concerns. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) this week launched a detailed investigation into the proposed deal, believing that it could push up prices or lower quality in 45 areas.

“Following the recent CMA announcement, the proposed retail transaction cannot proceed,” said KPMG’s David Pike, who has been appointed joint administrator alongside Mark Orton and Will Wright.

“Unfortunately, given the significant trading difficulties and cash flow pressures, this has led the directors to consider their options and take the difficult decision to place the company into administration.”

The administrators hope to secure a purchaser for the business and in the meantime is working alongside Hilco Capital to run the stores.

Mole Valley and Countrywide Farmers each run country stores, operating a total of 99 premises primarily located across the South and West of England.

These typically each have a bulk agricultural products supply business – through which they sell large-scale supplies of agricultural products, such as fertiliser or fencing – and a retail business, through which they sell a wide range of products including animal feed, clothing, pet food and gardening tools.

In earlier comments on the case, Rachel Merelie, acting executive director of mergers and markets at the CMA, said: “Mole Valley and Countrywide Farmers are two of the biggest operators of country stores, and so it’s important that their customers can find good deals when they need to buy these kinds of products.”

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