Bargain Booze owner promises "business as usual" after buyout saves thousands of jobs

The new Bargain Booze and Wine Rack owner has promised “business as usual” at 769 stores across the UK after buying Conviviality’s retail division.

Bestway has safeguarded more than 2,000 jobs by purchasing the chains from the ashes of the failed Conviviality empire.

Bargain Booze, Select Convenience and Wine Rack enjoyed sales of £445 million in the last financial year, but Bestway snapped the retail estate up for just £7 million following Conviviality’s collapse.

Magners and Tennent’s supplier C&C had already purchased Conviviality Direct, which includes wholesalers Matthew Clark and Bibendum PLB, safeguarding another 2,300 jobs.

Zameer Choudrey CBE, chief executive at Bestway Group, said: “We feel this acquisition represents a great fit for both Bestway Wholesale and Conviviality’s retail base.

“This deal provides much needed certainty to these stores and our priority will be to stabilise the supply of stock into these businesses. These retailers can get back to business as usual, with the confidence of having the support of the UK’s largest independent wholesaler.”

Bestway Group is the UK’s eighth largest family-owned firm, with businesses in multiple sectors both in the UK and abroad. It has an annual turnover of £3.3 billion and a global workforce of over 33,000 people, with around 12,000 staff in the UK.

Bestway Wholesale serves 125,000 independent retailers and caterers from 63 warehouses nationwide. It has more than 6 million sq ft of selling space, offering a product range of over 25,000 items. The business also encapsulates Best-One, Xtra Local, Bestway Export, BB Foodservice, Drinks Express, Bestpets and Bestpets Local.

Bargain Booze and Wine Rack now find themselves in the same stable as: Well Pharmacy, the UK’s third largest pharmacy chain; Bestway Cement, Pakistan’s largest cement manufacturer; and United Bank, Pakistan’s second largest private bank, with assets under management of US$10.3 billion and 1,400 branches serving 5,000 customers.

Sir Anwar Pervez, a billionaire former Bradford bus driver who features in The Telegraph’s 13 most inspirational rags-to-riches tales, owns the group.

Choudrey is his nephew, and the business mogul was awarded his CBE by the Queen in the 2016 New Year’s Honours, in recognition of services to the wholesale industry and philanthropic work.

He said: “We are also pleased that as a result of the deal we have been able to provide job security to over 2,300 colleagues, who have incredible expertise and experience that will truly be a great asset to our combined business.

“By stepping in we have also ensured the franchisee stores get the support they need and deserve to grow their businesses, as well as continuing to provide choice for shoppers on the high street.”

Bestway acquired the assets as part of an administration process managed by PwC, with Addleshaw Goddard acting as principal legal advisors for Bestway.

Dawood Pervez, trading director of Bestway Wholesale, added: “The purchase of these four businesses will further strengthen our position within the convenience retail sector. 

“We provide our suppliers with a safe and credible trading partner that will provide access to a vastly increased, and the most disciplined, route to market in the independent convenience sector.”

It provides welcome light at the end of the tunnel following an extremely gloomy few weeks for Bargain Booze and Wine Rack employees and franchisees.

Conviviality grew rapidly and exponentially since floating five years ago, but it will be remembered for one of the swiftest collapses in British corporate history.

It had a turnover of more than £1.4 billion in 2017 and five months ago shares were trading at 426p as the group revelled in its role of stock market darling.

But then the wheels came off in spectacular fashion after it provided a profit warning in mid-March, blaming an “arithmetic error” from a member of its finance team. The bad news simply piled up after that: two more profit warnings were issued, it announced it had forgotten about a £30 million bill owed to HMRC by the end of the month, the share price collapsed, chief executive Diana Hunter fell on her sword, it failed to secure £125 million in emergency funding to shore up its finances and then it was plunged into administration – from hero to zero, all within a few weeks.

Investors are considering suing the board after their assets – which once looked extremely profitable – ultimately amounted to virtually nothing. There are calls from a senior MP for the auditors to be investigated by the accountancy watchdog, and the recriminations look set to continue long into the future.

But for now, thousands of hardworking and talented members of the UK drinks industry can breathe a sigh of relief after Bestway and C&C both promised continuation of employment.

Uncertainty still grips much of the industry, particularly the supply chain, and there are likely to be some initial teething problems, but the trade is getting back on its feet following a tumultuous few weeks.

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