Two of Grimsby’s largest cold storage operators are to be united.
HSH Coldstores has agreed a £16.5 million deal to buy ACS&T Logistics. The pair operate the majority of the temperature-controlled warehousing in the town, most of which is dedicated to the seafood sector, employing hundreds of people.
It comes with HSH having just received a significant grant from the government to progress plans for a huge new facility on Grimsby’s Europarc, with the sector trading at capacity.
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Now part of the European Constellation Cold Logistics operation, following a majority stake acquisition in it early last year, HSH can be traced back to 1970. The £15.5 million turnover operation was founded by the Howard family, led by the late entrepreneurial lorry driver John Howard. Initially known as John T Howard, it started with a single truck. Two coldstores were added, in Birchin Way and on South Humberside Industrial Estate, as the business built up, before it was sold in 1996 and then bought back again in 2002. HSH also has operations in Redditch.
It is now led by the second generation, with Anthony Howard managing director, having been part of that latter deal.
He said: “We are enormously proud and excited to welcome ACS&T to the HSH family, the acquisition will provide a unique opportunity for HSH to expand its storage and distribution services for our new and existing customers.
“Having co-founded HSH nearly 20 years ago, I am extremely proud to see how our company has grown over the years and would like to extend my gratitude to our team on reaching this milestone. I look forward to collaborating with the team at ACS&T to accelerate our growth and develop new high quality cold chain solutions.”
ACS&T, part of UK-listed Camellia Plc since 1993, has been in Grimsby for almost 90 years, having made it the headquarters after initially launching as London Ice and Cold Storage Company. First operations were below Billingsgate Fish Market. It went on to open the first low-temperature cold store in Grimsby in 1934, with a base later established on the town’s South Humberside Industrial Estate. It also has operations in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands.
Both also provide refrigerated distribution services and the deal will see the fleet grow to 75 lorries when united.
The transaction is expected to close next month, with ACS&T having turned over £22 million in 2021, breaking even after the national LGV driver shortage affected margins, as volumes increased. The first six months of 2022 have seen a £600,000 profit posted on a £13 million turnover. A pre-completion dividend of £3.8 million will also be paid to Camellia by ACS&T. Chairman Malcolm Perkins said the proceeds will be used to support its strategy of focusing investment activity on core agriculture operations, which include global tea, apple and avocado production. He described HSH as "one of the UK’s leading providers of temperature-controlled storage and distribution solutions".
Unification of the two will see HSH’s capacity grow to around 140,000 pallet positions - having had 50,000 in Grimsby - with a further 30,000 in the offing with the Europarc addition. That £33 million investment, with greener fleet expansion, is anticipated to complete in early 2024.
As reported, import caution over just-in-time delivery post-Brexit has seen strong demand created in the past year for cold storage - a vital element of the cluster as it provides solutions before and after processing, handling raw material, ingredients and finished product.
Chief operating officer at Constellation, Henry Pingle, had welcomed new Fisheries Minister to HSH last month. He said of the deal: "I'm really thrilled to welcome the ACS&T team to Constellation! Exciting times ahead for HSH and ACS&T as we grow together in the UK."
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