Yes, Geest will have no bananas

NIGEL COPE

Geest, Britain's largest and best-known banana importer, put its banana business up for sale yesterday, signalling the end of a 40-year trading link.

In a flurry of activity, Geest issued a statement saying it was in discussions to sell the business. Hours later, Fyffes, the Irish group that is Geest's main UK rival, said it was interested in bidding and had formed a joint venture with the Windward Islands Banana Company to make a competing offer.

The sale is expected to yield in excess of pounds 75m. The deal will mark the end of Geest's often troubled relationaship with banana importing. The business has recently been hit by tropical storms, disease and hurricanes.

Geest was originally founded by the Dutch van Geest family in Britain in the 1930s when it specialised in the sale of Dutch flower bulbs.

It began importing bananas in 1953 when it was asked by the British government to develop a commercial banana business. It gradually built up a fleet of a dozen ships importing fruit from the Windward Islands. Four years ago it bought a 3,000-hectare bananaplantation in Costa Rica.

Though the Geest family still own a large part of Geest stock they no longer have an active role in the running of the business and do not sit on the board. Leonard van Geest is chairman of Littlewoods, the retail and football pools group.

More recently, Geest has had a rocky ride due to the volatility of the banana business. Hurricanes and tropical diseases have forced it to issue a flurry of profits warnings. The shares have slumped from 371p in January 1994 to a low of 107p earlier this month. Yesterday they jumped 25p to 142p.

The latest warning on trading came earlier this month when the company said a banana glut and a sharp fall in banana prices would mean that this year's profits would be "materially below" last year's figure of pounds 12.8m. Analysts are now forecasting that the company will record a pounds 4m loss in the year to December after pounds 12m of restructuring charges.

The company blamed a 30 per cent drop in the price of bananas between this October and the same month last year.

Fyffes's collaboration with the Windward banana company follows the island's fears that the sale of the Geest business could harm the four islands that supply the UK with a large part of their bananas.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...