Champagne supplier, Pressoirs de France, has gone into financial administration.
Bertrand de Bessac, the label produced for Waitrose
The group, which supplies many labels to UK supermarkets such as Waitrose, Morrisons and Tesco, is reported to have liabilities of €49 million, of which €30m is bank debt.
However, the group is also said to have €25m worth of Champagne in stock, 11 hectares of its own vineyards and contracts equal to a further 180ha.
It is likely that the administrators appointed by a Reims tribunal on 8 January will find buyers willing to take on the group’s debts.
Indeed, French newspaper l’Union, quoted the group’s president, Nicolas Dubois, as saying: “The group still possesses significant assets and the will to pursue future developments remains intact.
“Conscious of this potential, the tribunal in Reims appointed an administrator to the group that will allow it, in consultation with the chief administrator, Mr Jean-Luc Mercier, to construct a plan of action to safeguard jobs and our markets before an audit is undertaken.
“The confidence given to us by our clients and suppliers as well as the dynamism of our teams will be essential in seeing us through this difficult period and we thank them in advance.”
The reasons for this difficulty were born out of a tricky 2012 as well as Pressoirs de France’s practice of buying large parts of its stock “sur latte”.
Dubois told l’Union that the business had sold 6m bottles last year, while over the previous four years it had bought some 22m bottles “sur latte”, equal to €160m.
Other reports appear to indicate that the group pre-sold large volumes for €8 a bottle, in the hope that sur latte prices would drop.
However, they rose to little over €7 a bottle and with the added charge of €1.20 for disgorgement, margins were squeezed to unsustainable levels.