In the market, it was known that the situation at Codema Systems Group wasn't stable over the last couple of years. With the bankruptcy declared yesterday, more than sixty years of horticultural history have come to an end. At the same time, various parties are already showing interest in taking over parts of the horticultural supplier.
HAWE, the predecessor of Codema, was founded in 1958 by brothers Herman and Huub Wooning. With their electro-trolleys for internal logistics and mobile container systems, they also took their first steps abroad. In 1998 the company, by then also active in project development, was taken over by Maarten de Jager and merged with aluminum manufacturer WEVAB. After the takeover of SDF in 2002 and that of B-E De Lier in 2011, the company continued under the name Codema since 2016.
There had been rumors in the market for some time about the many personnel changes within the company since the takeover of Codema by Nordian Capital in 2018, yet according to a company spokesman, good business in China and Canada ensured strong sales growth in 2018 and 2019. A branch was opened in China in 2019.
However, 2020 saw worse numbers and major setbacks in both countries, according to the company spokesperson, in China mainly prompted by corona.
"The pandemic and travel restrictions made acquisition abroad and project execution more difficult, especially in markets where Codema had done good business in previous years or saw good prospects. What also did not help was that working at home offered no alternative to working on site. It seems that Codema has been hit harder than comparable companies."
In the recent period, market developments such as the higher price of raw materials, transport and material costs, and geopolitical developments have made it difficult for Codema's customers and for the company itself to get back on its feet. "We noticed that growers' willingness to invest is declining."
Circumstances that other parties may also have to deal with, but which, according to the spokesperson, in combination and in strength, have created a unique situation for Codema. A recent analysis by private equity in horticulture stated that Codema saw its turnover almost halved to EUR 44 million in 2020 and that it realized an EBITDA of minus EUR 1.5 million.
The spokesperson says that whether the financing burden since the takeover by private equity Nordian Capital in 2018 also contributes to this situation cannot be said right now. "That is up to the trustee." Nordian Capital itself does not comment on the bankruptcy filing and refers to Codema for clarification. "The international market in which Codema operates has deteriorated enormously in recent years due to a variety of causes, many of which could not have been foreseen, and this has had a direct impact on Codema's business operations," partner Joost Verbeek indicates.
In any case, last year, a new Board of Directors was appointed, which in the recent period intensively searched for a strong financial partner to take over the company, for financial strength to continue the business. The Belgian branch of the company was sold to Bosman Van Zaal. "Finding a takeover candidate for the whole package ultimately proved unsuccessful. A bankruptcy is, of course, the last solution you want, especially for the 140 employees", says the spokesperson. Yesterday, the management itself shared the sad news of the bankruptcy with the employees in the Bergschenhoek and Venlo branches.
At the same time, there is hope that the trustee, Mr. C.F.W.A. Hamm of Borsboom & Hamm Advocaten in Rotterdam, will be able to restart the saleable parts, something that will hopefully become clear in the next few days and for which the market is already showing interest.
Among other things, the trustee must make decisions on how to proceed with current projects. The market has already made inquiries about this at Codema. It is now up to the trustee to decide.
Is this the end of the horticultural adventure of investor Nordian Capital? Not so much. "Each new investment is tested against the following criteria: a company focused on growth, a head office in the Netherlands, a profitable company, a distinctive customer proposition, innovative R&D, growth potential in new areas, or the possibility of becoming a market leader in (niche) markets. This, therefore, also applies to potential new investments in the horticultural sector."
Mr. C.F.W.A. Hamm of Borsboom & Hamm Advocaten of Rotterdam has been appointed as curator. The bankruptcy of Codema Systems Group B.V. has been registered under number 10.rot.22.91.F.1300.1.22. Bankruptcy has also been declared in respect of Codema EMEA B.V. and Codema Nederland B.V..