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Buy-out hailed as economic boost for Great Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 15:43 15 January 2011

ONE of Great Yarmouth’s oldest family businesses, fertiliser producer J and H Bunn, is set to begin a new chapter in its 195-year history in a planned buy-out by US giant Koch Fertilizer.

Executives from the Kansas-based firm, a division of the world’s largest private company Koch Industries, were at the harbour-mouth headquarters of Bunn’s this week to pave the way for the deal to go through next month.

The buy-out is being hailed as a positive move for Yarmouth with the prospect of significant investment in Bunn’s sites, new jobs and a boost in business for the outer harbour.

It is understood that Koch, the world’s third largest supplier of nitrogen products, is keen to establish Bunn’s – already an industry leader in fertiliser technology – as a production centre of excellence.

Koch has pledged to retain all of Bunn’s 150-strong national workforce and it is thought the 50 staff at Yarmouth could eventually grow to at least 75.

Bunn’s currently imports about 125,000 tonnes of fertiliser products a year, mainly from western Europe, through Yarmouth’s river port; it is thought the volume of imports will grow significantly with new trade from the Americas and the Middle East and the deployment of much larger vessels using the outer harbour.

Bunn’s, founded in 1816, has an 18pc share in the UK fertiliser market, but it is understood Koch has ambitious expansion plans; one area of growth is likely to be in the UK’s 2.2m tonnes-a-year nitrogen product market in which Bunn’s is currently not very active.

While both companies remain tight-lipped about the amount paid for the business, it is expected to run to an eight-figure sum.

In addition to the main J and H Bunn operation, the acquisition will see Koch take over seven regional subsidiaries and brands in East Anglia, Humberside, Teesside and Scotland. They include Yarmouth haulage contractors Spandler Brothers.

Bunn’s co-managing director David Harrod said: “The combination of Bunn’s blending and agronomic expertise and Koch’s global sourcing and production capability could be a unique combination.

“This gives the opportunity for agriculture to benefit from additional fertiliser choice and security of supply arising from Koch’s unrivalled global sourcing capability.”

Steve Packebush, president of Koch Fertilizer, said: “By adding this business, Koch Fertilizer can integrate J and H Bunn’s terminals, distribution and blending capabilities into our growing market coverage.”

Eddie Freeman, chief executive of EastPort, described the transaction as “very good news”.

He said: “I have experience of working with Koch in Humberside and they are an excellent company.”

He said the outer harbour stood to benefit from the trend to use larger vessels to cut costs.

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