Owners of Pickenpack’s French activities, Gelmer, injected €17 million in new capital into the frozen processing and sales business last December, show company documents.
The transaction was carried out after Gelmer’s equity was found to be worth less than half of the company’s capital.
Under French law, this triggers a process whereby the shareholders have four months to decide whether or not to dissolve the company. If the owners decide not to dissolve, they then have to reduce the company’s capital by at least as much as the losses that were charged to reserves.
A company registry document shows that the Cypriot company Asarmona Holdings, which owns the majority of shares in Gelmer, decided to not dissolve the group at a meeting on Oct. 29.
The document states that Gelmer posted a loss of €8.63 million for the 2011, and that the company’s equity was at €6.86m, “becoming, consequently, inferior to half of the company’s share capital”.
A separate document shows that the group’s share capital was boosted by €17m on Dec. 31, bringing its amount to €18.05m. The new funds were used in their entirety to cover losses, meaning the share capital was immediately reduced back to €1.05m.
Asarmona — itself 19% owned by Pacific Andes International Holdings and 81% owned by another Cypriot company Klonasta Holding — acquired Gelmer in June 2011 from Icelandic Group.
Pickenpack France’s director Thomas Dillon Corneck and Pacific Andes did not return a request for comment.
A problem of volumes, workforce
According to Undercurrent News sources, Gelmer has been loss-making at least since its acquisition by Iceland Seafood in 1998.
Over the years it has been owned by Iceland Seafood, Delpierre, SIF – which then became Alfesca, and now Labeyrie Fine Foods, Icelandic Group and now by the consortium of Pacific Andes and Klonasta.
The factory’s main problem is a lack of volume, said sources. The plant needs 25,000 metric tons to be working at full capacity, but it probably does not have more than 15,000-17,000t at the moment, said one source familiar with the plant.
“It’s definitely a problem of volumes. The location is good, the factory is good. It just needs the volumes,” said another source.
The plant is based in Wimille, near Boulogne-sur-mer, making it close to the French, UK and Benelux markets.
In addition to lack of volumes, the factory is also struggling with a costly workforce, and one that would cost millions to reduce, said one source. So the factory is not as automated or efficient as it could be, he said. “Its biggest problem is you can’t restructure the workforce.”
The company register for Gelmer shows it had 240 employees by the end of 2011, down from 275 in 2010 and 305 the previous year.
The group is said to have a contract to supply Quick, France’s fast-food equivalent to McDonald’s.