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PLB pledges smooth takeover of HwCg

Published:  09 September, 2009

PLB has pledged to make its purchase of HwCg's assets as smooth as possible for customers and staff of the failed agency.

PLB has pledged to make its purchase of HwCg's assets as smooth as possible for customers and staff of the failed agency.

All 31 staff at HwCg, which has been placed into administration, are being offered jobs at PLB and discussions are being held over them relocating to East Grinstead from Bishop's Stortford.
PLB's managing director, Peter Darbyshire, said: "We are talking to everyone at the moment to find out what they would like to do. Nothing is excluded (in terms of staff working from Hertforshire) but what we are saying is we are commited to keeping their existing office open for three months while the integration happens."

Darbyshire said HwCg's managing director Guy Young, who founded the business with Jim Furze in 1999, would definitely be staying with the merged company while Furze was "reflecting".

He expected PLB to keep on all of HwCg's portfolio, apart from Italian wine company Gruppo La-Vis (Casa Girelli) whose UK distribution is going to United Wineries, which is expanding beyond its purely Spanish offering.

"The fit between the two companies is as compelling as it ever has been - the key thing now is to maintain exactly the same supply to existing customers", added Darbyshire.

He insisted HwCg had been a successful company that had been dragged down by the debts of its parent company Neqtar in Australia. HwCg's latest financial performance was "irrelevant" as it had been going into administration, he added.

"The only fly in the ointment was Neqtar. It had nothing to do with the very good group of people at HwCg and it's now just a case of putting the two companies together", he said.
Questions have been raised in the trade however about the viability of an agency model that focuses on pushing high volumes through supermarkets, particularly in the current climate. One trade insider said: "HwCg's volumes were pretty good but the profit wasn't. They had margin challenges but they looked good by having loads of brands in supermarkets."

Darbyshire however was very confident about the future of a merged business. "We have two very strong businesses which will become even more efficient, with a better portfolio and provide a better service to suppliers and customers", he said.