Bulmers director 'in talks' over MBO of The Beer Seller

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Bulmers director Jean-Francois Jamet is believed to be in talks to lead a management buy-out of The Beer Seller, Bulmers' independent distribution...

Bulmers director Jean-Francois Jamet is believed to be in talks to lead a management buy-out of The Beer Seller, Bulmers' independent distribution arm.

The troubled cidermaker is thought to be preparing to off-load the business to its commercial director as part of a fire sale to halt the company's spiralling debt.

Mr Jamet, who is currently in charge of all UK distribution channels including The Beer Seller, was unavailable for comment.

Spokesman George Thomas said: "The objective at Bulmers is to maintain the core UK business - its drinks brands.

"The group has a huge debt burden which has to be quickly reduced. Bulmers recently outlined the options available to shareholders, one of which is a sale of The Beer Seller.

"It's a good profit contributor and we certainly would not want to lose it but it is something that the board must consider."

Mr Jamet, who joined the Bulmers board in July last year as UK commercial director, spent the previous four years as managing director of Guinness Northern Ireland, prior to which he held a number of roles at Guinness and Pernod Ricard International.

Last year Bulmers issued five profit warnings, discovered a black hole in its accounts, and fired three board members including chief executive Mike Hughes and finance director Alan Flockhart.

Last month the maker of Strongbow reported first-half losses of £34.4m. This included a £32.6m chunk of exceptional items.

The company recently warned of further deterioration in trading in Europe and North America.

Bulmers has now put its Australian and New Zealand businesses up for sale but the £23m proceeds may not be enough.

The long-term future of the business is in serious doubt and analysts are now demanding an outright trade sale. Irish firm Cantrell & Cochrane is understood to have expressed an interest.

A number of rumours and theories have also been circulating the pub industry this week. Matthew Clark is said to be mulling a bid for the entire business but for a successful deal it would need to sell Dry Blackthorn cider to satisfy competition concerns.

Sources suggest Halewood International would pick up Blackthorn.

The company may launch an emergency rights issue, tapping shareholders for cash.

Bulmers chief executive Miles Templeman was also unavailable for comment despite renewed attempts to contact him. Mr Thomas added: "Obviously a sale of the entire business is also an option but the objective is to remain independent."

Related articles:

Finance worries could force Bulmer sale (30th January 2003)

Troubled Bulmers unveils £34m loss (6 January 2003)

Bulmer banks on Miles Templeman (16 December 2002)

Dividend blow at Bulmers (27 November 2002)

Bulmers downgrades profit forecasts (14 October 2002)

Bulmer fires finance chief over £3.8m hidden costs (1 October 2002)

Bulmer boss falls on sword (12 September 2002)

Bulmers uncovers £3.3m black hole in accounts (10 September 2002)

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