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Garden Centre Group acquires Country Homes & Gardens

The Garden Centre Group (GCG) has confirmed its acquisition of Country Homes & Gardens.

The 12-strong chain, run by GCG chief executive Nicholas Marshall, operates under the Country Gardens brand and will continue to do so under the GCG umbrella, a spokesperson confirmed to DIY Week.

However, the company was unwilling to elaborate further on details of the sale, so it remains unclear as to whether Nicholas Marshall will retain a shareholding in Country Homes & Gardens and what percentage of the company will be owned by GCG.

It's also unclear how it will affect operations at Country Homes & Gardens, and its existing board structure and shareholders.

The two companies have run closely together since Mr Marshall took over at GCG, which already holds a 29% stake in Country Gardens.

Country Homes and Gardens plc saw pre-tax profit drop 47% in the year to December 2010, but has managed to return to making a profit after losing money in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Sales for the year dipped 7.1% to £15.7m.

This is the second time the Group, formerly known as Wyevale, has bought a garden centre business started by Mr Marshall, after acquiring his first business, also named Country Gardens, in a hostile takeover in 2000. He then founded his current business, which he named Country Homes & Gardens, and now trades as Country Gardens.

The news fuels speculation that the Garden Centre Group's major shareholder Lloyds Banking Group is planning to put the Group, which now operates from 121 centres across England and Wales, up for sale.

Earlier this month, Lloyds Banking Group appointed Rothschild to consider strategic options for The Garden Centre Group going forward. The chain reported an 8% rise in sales to £152m for the six months to June 30.

The Group is yet to comment on sale speculation.

Source : DIY

29 July 2011
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