Wyevale Garden Centres owner Guy Hands plays down bank issue

Terra Firma chairman Guy Hands says a £25m funding gap was "more to do with the bank than us", and that chief executive Roger Mclaughlan is secure in his post.

A Wyevale headquarters move from Syon Park in London is planned, but there is no progress report, after rumours of a delay to the change.

Hands, speaking at the launch with Gemma Arterton of Burncoose Nurseries exhibit at Chelsea Flower Show, said: "All the banks were fine except for one and that was more to do with them than us."

Terra Firma had to pay £25m after the unnamed bank said covenants were not reached on Wyevale's debts in January.

Hands said the breach of covenant was a "technical issue which all the rest of the banks decided to deal with a waive but one small position was withheld by one bank and they...wanted to get paid more."

He said "97%" of the banks are "fine" and it was "one bank trying to be difficult, which is more to do with their economic position than Wyevale's".

Hands said there were headhunters looking "at various roles in the business, but not Roger's role".

Wyevale is "going to be looking at new [HQ] premises, but there is no rush and no timescale".

Hands said Wyevale trade was "pretty much the same as the rest of the industry. The weather affects us like the rest of the industry. We had a strong first quarter, then the weather has not been great in the last month. Chelsea Flower Show helps and good weather helps even more. We just need a couple of weeks of sunshine."

On Wyevale's future he said: "The current business plan is a five-year plan so I expect to do the majority of that, but whether we do the whole five years is up to the investors. We're a private equity business so it will be up for sale at some point."

Hands says he sees garden centre customers as split into 10% specialists, then families who visit centres as a destination, then those who want quick colour. The market is getting more segmented, which makes it more difficult, he added. 

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