Increase in scale: Merger creates 500 hectare greenhouse

Staff
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Agro Care and CombiVliet have announced plans to merge. The merger is currently subject to approval by the Consumer & Market Authority. It will be the largest joining of forces of tomato growers in the Netherlands, continuing under the name Agro Care. Combined, the two partners’ acreage will amount to 500 hectares. The two companies, which already collaborate closely, will merge with retroactive effect from 1 January 2023. After ACM approval, the merger and integration process will be initiated in the coming months.

Both companies are among the largest and most modern tomato-growing companies in the world. Agro Care and CombiVliet are both of Westland origin. Family business CombiVliet, founded in the 1950s, is the older of the two, Agro Care is from 1997. In recent years, both companies have been in the media a lot because of expansions. Agro Care is mainly seeking that expansion across the border, with the most recent project being the opening of a second growing location in Tunisia. Agro Care also has a cultivation location in Morocco and, together with CombiVliet, two French locations. In addition, CombiVliet is active in Brazil. In the Netherlands, the companies have 13 growing locations.

Since 2018, options for more intensive cooperation have been cautiously considered. The date of January 1, 2023 was chosen for the valuation. In a time with, among other things, fiddling energy prices, that was quite a challenge, but now the parties are ready to report to the ACM and therefore also bring the news out themselves.

Kees van Veen, CEO Agro Care: ‘Most companies that steer towards scale increase do so to grow with their customers and with the demand for sustainability. The assignment to become more sustainable is not only inspired by the market, we also impose it on ourselves to make our company future-proof. When you are larger, you can facilitate and finance this better than if we both start doing it individually.’

On the eve of its 25th anniversary, in 2022, Agro Care already announced that the acreage could well be heading towards 1,000 hectares. ‘Especially by working together. We really don’t have to build all those thousand hectares ourselves. And it doesn’t have to be only in the Netherlands either,’ Kees van Veen said on that occasion. In 2020, investment company NPM Capital got on board Agro Care. ‘They have the knowledge and expertise to guide companies to stable and profitable growth. We are happy to make use of that knowledge.’ With the merger, the two partners are almost at half of the predicted acreage.

Growth ambitions
‘Growth of the company will mainly be achieved through foreign expansion,’ says CombiVliet’s managing director Roy van Vliet. ‘Growing tomatoes internationally for a larger market is a win-win situation for everyone in terms of sustainability, environment, employment, development and economic interest. Consumers increasingly ask for local for local, partly from a sustainability perspective.’

There are also opportunities to further develop the company in the Netherlands, although the expectation is that these will mainly be realised through collaborations, mergers and acquisitions.

Kees van Veen ceo, Roy van Vliet managing director Netherlands

Kees van Veen, co-founder of Agro Care, will be ceo and will in this role be responsible for all countries and participations. Managing director Netherlands will be Roy van Vliet, who succeeded his father Theo at CombiVliet two years ago. As managing director Tunisia, Philip van Antwerpen, also Agro Care founder, will remain responsible for the two growing locations in the North African country. As a result of the merger, the family name CombiVliet disappears as company name. Roy: ‘Agro Care already has significant name recognition throughout the world. Hence, we did not opt for a completely new name.’

Previous collaborations
A previous partnership resulted, among other things, in the establishment of CombiCoop, the joint purchasing and project management organisation. Moreover, sales and marketing activities are already filled in by the same company, being cooperative Harvest House, and the two companies are partners in their own seed and breeding company, a plant propagator, a software developer, energy companies, an employment agency, a tomato processing company, a packing company and distribution centers.

Joint headquarters
The aim of joining forces is also to strengthen operations. The individual branches will increasingly share knowledge and skills and intensify cooperation. Roy van Vliet: ‘We will coordinate and look for each other even more. Staff services will be merged into one department. We envisage a joint head office in the future. The more we do together, the more we will also feel the need to be in one location.’ The two partners also see advantages in terms of employment. A large and growing company offers more opportunities and interesting challenges for ambitious employees, which makes us more attractive to talent.’ Agro Care will be employer of about 4,000 employees.

ACM permission
Up next is permission from the ACM, but the merger growers do not expect any problems there. They already work together so much that, as far as they are concerned, not much will change. Also, all tomatoes from the growers will still go to Harvest House, just like now, only then from one company with one name.This is perhaps the first thing the outside world will see after this announcement. The name CombiVliet will disappear, but not abruptly. The intention is to slowly phase out the name.

Voor meer informatie:
Agro Care / CombiVliet
Martine van der Meer (Communicatie & HRM)
06 10 10 55 30
[email protected]
[email protected]
www.agrocare.nl
www.combivliet.nl

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