Berner UK changes ownership

Berner UK Ltd, the Fife-based subsidiary of the pan-European Berner Group and supplier to the automotive industry, has completed a share purchase agreement which sees MD Chris Howe become sole shareholder of the business, assuming full ownership and control.

The deal, which includes a sole distribution agreement, was concluded for an undisclosed sum between Howe (50), who has been at the helm of Berner UK for the past three years, and Berner CEO, Christian Berner, son of company founder Albert Berner, who established the firm in Germany in 1957.

The move follows Berner Europe’s decision, made in February 2018, to withdraw from the automotive industry in the UK.

With a turnover of £5.4m, Berner UK Ltd supplies its own range of branded engineering and automotive products, hand and power tools, janitorial, PPE and workshop consumables throughout the UK. A primary market sector for the business is the automotive sector, along with the HGV and bus and coach markets.

Based at Pitreavie Industrial Estate in Dunfermline, and currently employing forty five staff, Berner UK also services local authorities, agriculture, and the utilities markets. The UK subsidiary has formerly been part of a twenty five strong office network of bases across Europe, stretching from to Spain to Lithuania, with Berner France one of the most successful and well established locations in the portfolio.

“I am delighted to conclude and announce this deal, which heralds an exciting new chapter for Berner in the UK,” said Chris Howe.

Howe explained how Berner Europe’s decision to withdraw from from the UK automotive industry spurred the move: “This decision was taken primarily to allow Berner Group to focus and strengthen its chemical business in the UK. I also believe the automotive sector is still a very strong one for us, with as yet, untapped future growth. I believe that it can weather any future political and economic change. In the UK we are very fortunate to enjoy strong brand recognition and a high level of procurement for our own product range, particularly within this sector.”

This change in direction from the Berner Group lead Howe to conclude that he could lead Berner UK in a new direction, which would also minimise the inevitable job losses Berner UK would face with the loss of a key market.

“Berner UK was already in the midst of a three year development plan, during which time we had been targeting new growth and new sales areas across the UK. This was still very much on-going, leading me to take the decision to approach Christian Berner and implement a share purchase agreement. Not only are we now able to restructure the business across the board to maximum effect, but we are no longer restricted to the core markets of the rest of the pan European group, and can approach and build awareness in completely new markets, such as manufacturing.”

Following the change of ownership, Howe will continue to trade under the Berner name for the foreseeable future. The new deal will allow him to primarily concentrate on further developing the product and service offering to existing and new customers across the UK.

Berner’s sister firms in the UK, Kent and ACC, are unaffected by the new ownership deal.

“Job losses minimised”

Job losses have been minimised across Berner UK by the new deal, the statement said, with numbers now estimated at sixteen, rather than the previously estimated sixty one.

“I am proud that we have been able to minimise job losses, although any are regrettable at this time within our workforce,” said Chris Howe. “All staff affected will be given our full support, and I thank my entire team for their patience. We have future proofed the business, although there is much work to be done in the coming months.

“For our customers, business very much continues as normal – they will be subject to the same high level of customer service, ethics and values, which have been the very backbone of Berner over the years. Our support team and highly responsive ordering website remain unaffected.”