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Chilled food distributor secures €39.2m finance package

By Rod Addy , 18-Sep-2012
Last updated on 19-Sep-2012 at 15:33 GMT

Chilled food distributor secures €39.2m finance package

UK distributor NFT is pumping millions of euros into its operations, having secured a five-year refinancing agreement with HSBC Midlands corporate banking team.

The chilled food firm, which is based in Alfreton, Derbyshire, said the deal makes HSBC its sole banking partner and was a testament to the progress of its business in the past few years.

The move replaces and renews previous banking arrangements. The total refinancing package is valued at €39.32m, of which €26.9m consists of term and property loans. That left €12.4m of working capital facilities to invest in the business, NFT financial director Steve Dennison told FoodProductionDaily.com.

Much of the cash remained on hold until future supply chain contracts were confirmed, he said, but NFT needed it to keep pace with its growth. “We have filled a 200,000 sq ft Daventry warehouse [in Northamptonshire, established in 2009] in three years.”

Expanding its Alfreton warehouse

NFT had established a depot in Middleton, greater Manchester, last year and had just invested in expanding its Alfreton warehouse in Derbyshire, he continued.

“We are already increasing capacity,” said Dennison. “We are expanding our Alfreton depot, which is dedicated to Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and other retailers, by 15,000 sq ft, doubling its size. The new facility will be up and running by November. The next move would be to identify a centre of gravity that would suit a south east hub.”

The working capital would also be used to help NFT cope with the bureaucracy involved in dealing with large businesses, he said. “As you start to grow into larger customers, payment terms get longer.”

Investing in technology

The company would keep investing in technology, as it had already been doing, said Dennison. “We have invested a lot in systems in the past couple of years. We have installed RedPrairie warehouse management systems in two depots now.

“In the past six months we have introduced a new vehicle telematics system, Microlise, to 200 vehicles, a GPS tracking system enabling us to view where a vehicle is at any point of time.

“It can give up to date information on arrival times and monitor driving styles so we can improve efficiency. We have seen a real uplift in fuel efficiency in the past few months from implementing that. We want to do more of that.”

Proof banks still lend

The banking agreement was sorely needed in a difficult economic climate and was proof banks would still lend to the right businesses, said Dennison.

The company grew sales by 8% to €189.2m in the past financial year and grew profit after tax by 55% to €2.5m. Since 2009 it has invested more than €24.8m in technology and infrastructure solutions to consolidate its position in the market.

NFT currently delivers more than 120,000 pallets of chilled food each week to major UK retailers. It has more than 1,700 employees and runs more than 370 articulated vehicles across the business, covering 1.4m km every week.