SPC site for sale

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The large SPC factory site in Andrew Fairley Ave, Shepparton, is expected to be sold and leased back under a deal negotiated by the business’ owners.

But the owners, Shepparton Partners Collective, have assured Country News the business is not selling and will not be offered for sale.

The company’s intention is to re-invest money generated by the property sale, into the business.

SPC chairman Hussein Rifai confirmed the sale was going through and said he expected to be able to make a formal announcement soon after January 26.

Shepparton Partners Collective bought the business from Coca-Cola Amatil in 2019 for $40 million and shortly after sold its Kyabram factory.

Since then the company has made a number of acquisitions of food companies and Mr Rifai said further expansion and acquisitions could be expected.

The company came to national attention last August when it announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for its staff — a decision which Mr Rifai said the company had never regretted.

The company advised staff prior to Christmas that it was going through a capitalisation program which should generate up to $110 million.

Mr Rifai said the company was only dealing with Australian investors, although it would have been easier to find overseas capital.

Site sales and lease-back arrangements are common in business and Mr Rifai said it was becoming more common with large Australian food companies.

“The business is going very well and this re-capitalisation will enable us to push further ahead.

“We’re very happy where we are today and we’re preparing for the next stage of growth.

“The business is not for sale. It’s never been discussed,” Mr Rifai said.

Meanwhile, at the factory, the company is grappling with staff shortages due to COVID-19 infections.

Company chief executive officer Robert Giles said the business had lost about 80 people out of a workforce of about 600, but it had not hampered production output.

He said the company had been through a process of identifying staff skills to enable it to move people to cover absences.

“There has been a gap this year between apricots, which have just finished, and peach processing, so that has given us a breather,” Mr Giles said.

“Peaches will probably start in February rather than Australia Day this year.

“It will be pretty tight for us.”

The company was securing supplies of rapid antigen test kits.

Despite transport issues across food distribution networks, Mr Giles said the company had not yet been negatively effected by transport disruptions.