“Pomuni returned the keys”

The ‘near takeover’ of Potato Masters

It seemed a done deal. Potato Masters had an agreement with Pomuni, but in December, Pomuni decided not to go through with it. It’s not exactly clear why, but it’s likely that they faced some surprises down the road. A few days afterwards, Potato Masters was declared bankrupt. In 2013, Potato Masters still processed 80,000 tonnes of potatoes, with a revenue of 50 million euros. So, what’s the deal with this ‘near takeover’?

What happened exactly?
The Muyshondt (Pomuni) and Deprez (Potato Masters) families indicated in 2014 that a takeover would be the way to go. They wanted to act proactively within the current difficult market circumstances. With the takeover, Pomuni would be closer to its French clients and the production areas. In the United Kingdom and Spain, Pomuni would also be able to expand further. Right before the official takeover, the key to Potato Masters was handed to Pomuni, but it was returned, and the transfer of shares didn’t go through.

Why no takeover?
“The agreement between Potato Masters and Pomuni was subject to conditions precedent,” receiver Pascale Roose explains. “That means the agreement only comes into force when the conditions have been fulfilled completely, including financing. It was a transfer of shares. Because the transfer of shares didn’t go through, it was decided to file for bankruptcy.”

Pomuni probably found out about a fact they hadn’t known about after a few days. Pascale: “Remarkably, Pomuni had already been given the keys, and was already active in the company. The keys were then handed back. Money was never paid, so a transaction never took place. Because the transfer of keys had already occurred, things became even more complex, since this isn’t without risk for either company, and then you end up with a complicated legal story.”

What happens with the staff?
Belgium has a fund for closing businesses. “Employees who are fired, almost immediately receive money from it. It’s also possible that they’ll receive some money from the bankruptcy, but first all the sales will have to be realized. Only then can we discuss reimbursements,” the receiver says.

What now?
At the moment, the movables are liquidated, and soon parts of Potato Masters can be sold. All assets can still be sold, and there are interested parties already. Of the ‘sales’ part, we can still realize much in 2015. The procedure of the ‘near takeover’ could be a much longer process. It’s difficult to estimate, but it could take years.”

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