Friday 24 November 2017

Farmers get their cattle back from troubled firm

Angus Cow
Angus Cow
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

FARMERS have secured the return of several hundred cattle from the troubled live cattle shipping business TLT International.

The cattle, worth at least €250,000, were returned to their original owners' farms during the first 48 hours of the appointment of the receiver, Gearoid Costelloe of Grant Thornton.

However, Mr Costelloe had no knowledge that the farmers -- who along with marts are owed €3.5m by TLT -- were retrieving their stock.

The business, which was Ireland's largest livestock exporter with annual sales of almost 100,000 head of cattle, sheep and pigs, went into receivership at the end of October with debts estimated at €9m.

It was operated by the Garavelli brothers, Paolo and Davide, from the family farm just north of Mullingar in Co Westmeath.

They were renowned throughout the Irish cattle industry as the highest bidders for premium-quality Belgian Blue and Charolais weanlings at marts around the country.

However, as Irish cattle increased faster in value here compared with Italy over the past two years, the business began to run into profitability problems.

Its main banker HSBC decided to call in receivers four weeks ago.

Within days, all of the 25 employees -- some of whom had worked for the company for almost 20 years -- were made redundant.

Up to 60 marts, cattle agents and farmers who extended generous credit terms to TLT are believed to be owed amounts from €10,000 to €300,000 by the stalled business.

All marts involved have stated publicly that they remain viable despite the sizeable debts that they have incurred on foot of the receivership of TLT.

Hopes of retrieving any of the monies owed to suppliers are fading fast, despite the receiver's insistence that collecting outstanding payments from TLT's Italian and African customer base was "not a lost cause".

However, Mr Costelloe admitted that he was finding it "extremely difficult" to get accurate figures on the extent of the credit owed to suppliers by the Garavellis.

He said that this delay in information from some marts in particular was weakening the chances of the business being sold on as a going concern.

"As each week passes it becomes more difficult, because with each week somebody else is stepping in to fill the customers' needs," said Mr Costelloe.

Two of Ireland's remaining live cattle exporters are believed to be still in talks with the receiver about buying out the business assets, which include a fleet of 17 livestock transport trucks.

Trade in the country's 80 livestock marts has remained relatively unaffected by the absence of TLT's buying agents from the ringside.

Irish Independent

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