Dawnfresh into administration after 17 straight years of losses

The Dawnfresh fish processing plant in Uddingston has closed with the immediate loss of 200 jobs after its parent group went into administration following 17 consecutive years of multi-million pound losses.

The future of a further 77 staff at the Uddingston facility remains uncertain. They have been retained for the time being to assist the joint administrators with the winding up process, which will include the sale of land, buildings and plant at the site.

Tom MacLennan, Callum Carmichael and Michelle Elliot of FRP Advisory were called in yesterday as joint administrators of Dawnfresh Holdings, Dawnfresh Seafoods and RR Spink & Sons, which collectively comprised one of the UK’s largest producers and processors of fish and seafood. Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Uddingston, the business was majority-owned by the family of Alastair Salvesen.

The company’s Dawnfresh Seafoods division, which operates seven fish farms across Scotland and Northern Ireland, will continue trading solvently and is being put up for sale. It employs a total of 58 people.

Following a short marketing exercise, RR Spink & Sons of Arbroath has been sold to Buckie-based smoked salmon producer Associated Seafoods, a subsidiary of Lossie Seafoods. The deal will include the transfer of all 249 staff to the new owners.

The combination of RR Spink and Associated Seafoods, which employs 300 staff, will create an £85 million turnover business. Managing director Victor West said the acquisition will be a “major boost” for Arbroath.

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“Both businesses are major suppliers to Marks & Spencer, who are delighted that their two key suppliers of ready-to-eat seafood are joining ranks,” Mr West said. “We are thrilled that the Arbroath site will become part of our group, which will significantly expand our production capability in both volume and range.”

Bill Hazeldean, chairman of Associated Seafoods, added: “Victor and his management team, together with all the employees at Buckie, have done a terrific job developing ASL into the successful business it is today. The addition of Arbroath will accelerate our planned strategic growth, and we look forward to working with our new colleagues through this next stage of our business development.”

Administrators at FRP said despite extensive investment to upgrade plant, improve efficiency and reduce costs, the group suffered from overcapacity at Uddingston that led to unsustainable cash flow problems.

According to filings with Companies House, Dawnfresh Holdings last posted a profit during the year to March 2004 when it made £7,600 pre-tax on turnover of £2.07m. During the year to March 2020 – the last year for which accounts were filed – it made a pre-tax loss of £5.8m on revenues of £72.4m.

“Dawnfresh is a high profile and highly regarded seafood business with a long tradition of supplying innovative products to a blue-chip customer base,” Mr Carmichael of FRP said.

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“Unfortunately, the business has been unable to overcome very serious financial problems at the Uddingston facility, but we are pleased to have secured a prompt sale of the Arbroath facility in a deal that will also preserve substantial employment in the town. Our focus is now on finding a buyer for the farming business whilst also realising as much value as possible from the other assets for the benefit of creditors.”

Alastair Salvesen acquired control of the Dawnfresh business in a 1983 management buy-out when it was part of the Christian Salvesen empire. A force at that time in food storage and distribution, Christian Salvesen decided that it was not appropriate to sell shellfish under its own brand name when its primary business was storing and distributing food for other people.

Intent on expansion, Dawnfresh broke ground on a former rugby training pitch in 1992 in Uddingston to build a state-of-the-art processing plant that also became its headquarters.

In the accounts for the year to March 2020, Dawnfresh Holdings highlighted the effects of the Covid pandemic on its operations.

“The impact on sales has varied in quantum across UK retail, B2B and export markets,” directors said. “Export markets have been most challenging with reduced air freight availability and increased costs.”

Further down they added: “The group has ambitious plans to grow, and with the continued support of its shareholders remains financially secure.

“The group has continued to diversify its sources of funding [and] consequently enjoys a broader base of external finance suppliers [with debts] comfortably covered by the balance sheet net asset position of £19.9m.”

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