After weeks of speculation that it was in financial difficulties, the Pressoirs de France group - supplier of cheap Champagne to major UK supermarkets - has gone into receivership having failed to find a new financial backer.
Myriam and Nicolas Dubois (pic: lunion.presse.fr)
In a statement to the French press on Wednesday, owner Nicolas Dubois said the company was ‘without sufficient capital to fund its cash needs’.
Dubois, who started his brokering business in 1999, quickly become a large operator predominantly selling cheap Champagne to hypermarkets and supermarkets inside and outside France.
Pressoirs de France supplied the Laurence D brand to Leclerc supermarkets last September at €5.45 in a loyalty card deal. It also supplies Tesco with its Francois Dubois label, Morrisons with its Louis Dubrince Champagnes and Waitrose with Bertrand de Bessac, all of which were heavily promoted in the UK in the run-up to Christmas.
His group sold 6m bottles of Champagne in 2012, he told French newspaper l’Union, making it clear the majority of this was bought on the sur lattes (‘on slats’ or ‘on palettes’) market from other producers in Champagne.
He confirmed that he had purchased €160m (around 22m bottles) of Champagne like this in four years.
According to reports, Dubois had recently pre-sold clients large volumes of Champagne at €8 a bottle, banking on the sur lattes price dropping in the current difficult economic climate.
However, as the sur lattes price has risen slightly to just over €7, and factoring in the €1.20 price per bottle for disgorgment, the resulting squeeze on margins may have been in part responsible for Pressoirs de France’s financial collapse.
The administrator appointed by the French courts on 8 January is trying to save jobs at Pressoirs de France’s operation near Reims.
According to reports in the French press the business has total liabilities of €49m including €30m of bank debt. Its assets include 40ha of supply contracts bought with the Jeeper brand (also sold by Tesco on-line) by Dubois in November 2009, other supply contracts, and the equivalent of €25m of unsold stock.
Written by Giles Fallowfield