17 December 2012

Namibia: Komsberg Saved From Liquidation

Komsberg table grape farm was thrown another lifeline when the Windhoek High Court granted the farm owners until next year March 25 to come up with a settlement arrangement with its creditors.

The farm was on the verge of being declared bankrupt - a move that was set to sink millions of dollars worth of grape harvests for export to Europe.

"We reached a compromise and are very committed to see it through. We want to come out of the situation we all are in," a relieved Komsberg managing director Dr Michael Louis said from his Cape Town office last week.

On the harvest for this season, Louis said work continues as usual on the farm with an excellent harvest predicted, which is going to see the company through and place it in a position to acknowledge its obligations towards its creditors.

"The harvest this year will be around 500 000 cartons of top quality fruit. We managed the farm for 12 years and we cannot just give up now. We are committed as management and the employees are eager to play their part as well," he said.

Last year the farm produced a record 560 000 cartons of grapes, each weighing 4.5 kilogrammes. The spectacular export table grape vineyard estate of approximately 24 000 hectares was provisionally liquidated in July of this year after the Louis Group of South Africa, who own Komsberg, applied to the High Court for a liquidation order.

The documents presented to court on July 25 indicate Komsberg owes the Louis Group about N$17.2 million, and N$25.27 million to the Colia Louis Family Trust.

The farm also owes N$133 million to Agribank, and an undisclosed amount to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) of South Africa. In total, Komsberg's debt amount to approximately N$228 million.

Komsberg produces export-quality table grapes that are sold through the finest retailers in Africa, the UK, Russia, the Middle East and China. The spectacular Komsberg farm, that celebrated its 11th year of exporting last year, is located in the deep south in Namibia, close to the border with South Africa, and comprises of 33 000 hectares stretching over 56 kilometres along the picturesque Orange River. Approximately 1 640 hectares comprise arable land and have water rights attached to them, making Komsberg one of the largest water rights concessions in Africa. The farm is rated one of the best table grape producers in Namibia, with 320 hectares of arable land currently under irrigation.

The agricultural experts on the farm utilise state-of-the-art technology to ensure the quality of the grapes remains world class.

Komsberg has been accredited by Global Gap and Nature's Choice and is one of only two Namibian farms registered with Fair Trade. Komsberg was awarded the first green scheme in early 2000 by the government, which encourages the transfer of agricultural skills to black small-scale farmers.

On its webpage Komsberg indicates that it not only invests in export table grapes, but has demonstrated its emphasis on community development and empowerment through its significant investment in a community centre, crèche and an agricultural training facility.

These facilities address the medical, educational and social needs of the people who work on the land, the people directly responsible for the success of the farm.

As part of its broader strategic initiatives, Louis Group (Africa) in 2002 identified Namibia as a strategic investment location and has identified several projects for the country, which will create additional employment opportunities for Namibians. It has interests in the farm where Desert Star envisaged developing a mecca for filmmakers comprising luxury golf estates and a resort. The plans have since fallen through.

The application for liquidation was heard in court on September 10 and November 16.

Acting Judge Kobus Miller was on the bench while Adv Raymond Heathcote was commissioned by Francois Erasmus to appear for the Louis Group. The Master of the High Court appointed Simon Steyn of L&B Commercial Services together with Messrs Ian McLaren and David Bruni of Investment Trust Company as liquidators.

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