Fruit pack­ing tech firm goes for $67m

The Timaru Herald - - FASHION&BEAUTY - THOMAS MANCH

A Hamil­ton fruit tech­nol­ogy man­u­fac­turer has been bought by a Nor­we­gian gi­ant. A $66.9 mil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of BBC Tech­nolo­gies, a fam­ily-run pro­ducer of sort­ing and pack­ag­ing ma­chines for small fruits, was an­nounced to the Oslo stock ex­change on Tues­day.

The deal with Nor­way-based TOMRA Foods will al­low BBC Tech­nolo­gies to boost its al­ready $34m per year in ex­ports.

BBC Tech­nolo­gies chief ex­ec­u­tive Ge­off Fur­niss said it was the end of an era for the com­pany, which started in a tin shed in Ohaupo af­ter Fur­niss’ par­ents, Greg and Alison, in­vented a blue­berry grader for their farm, Blue­berry Coun­try.

The com­pany now ex­ports $34 mil­lion per year of ma­chines that sort and pack blue­ber­ries, cher­ries and other small fruits by colour, soft­ness and de­fect.

It em­ploys 150 peo­ple in coun­tries in­clud­ing New Zealand, Chile and the United States.

A soft­ware sys­tem which tracks fruit from har­vest to point of sale, called Fresh­tracker, has also been ac­quired by TOMRA.

‘‘There was a drive at own­er­ship lev­els and within the fam­ily to find a bet­ter home that’s more aligned with the po­ten­tial the busi­ness has,’’ Fur­niss said.

The com­pany sought a buyer seven months ago, and re­ceived a ‘‘large num­ber of en­quiries’’.

‘‘We recog­nise it’s an end of a era ... but I think it’s ex­cit­ing.

‘‘We’re a pretty am­bi­tious bunch of peo­ple here, we’ve got big ideas and dreams, and it’s nice to find some­one we can part­ner with and chase them down to­gether.

‘‘We’ve al­ready had com­mer­cial ben­e­fits, with com­mon cus­tomers see­ing the re­la­tion­ship as be­ing strong and mak­ing ad­di­tional pur­chases we wouldn’t have other­wise ex­pected. It seen as a re­ally pos­i­tive sales push.’’

Un­der the ar­range­ment, BBC Tech­nolo­gies will be­come a di­vi­sion of TOMRA and Fur­niss will re­main in charge.

There are not ex­pected to be any changes to the com­pany’s op­er­a­tion.

TOMRA Foods chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike Ri­ley said BBC Tech­nolo­gies was sim­ply ‘‘the best in the busi­ness’’.

Nor­way-based TOMRA, which man­u­fac­tures sort­ing and pack­ing ma­chines for food, recycling and min­ing in­dus­tries, boasts 95,000 in­stal­la­tions in 80 coun­tries and a 2017 rev­enue of around $1.2 bil­lion.

TOMRA has a track record of pur­chas­ing New Zealand hor­ti­cul­ture tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies; it pur­chased Auck­land-based pack­house au­to­ma­tion sys­tems man­u­fac­turer Com­pac in 2016.

PHOTO: MARK TAY­LOR/STUFF

Hamil­ton’s BBC Tech­nolo­gies man­u­fac­tur­ers ma­chines which sort and pack small fruits.

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