Once again, private equity funds have been invested in a Dutch horticulture supplier. Investment company Victus acquired a majority interest in PB Techniek from owners Koen, Paul and Mark Brabander. This step is to enable further growth, according to Koen Brabander. "We've got pretty big plans - and now we also have the opportunity to execute those."

Only yesterday, PB Techniek was in the news for taking over the horticulture section of Canadian company Armada Electrical Services, and now they themselves are making headlines as an acquired party. "We'd have done the Armada takeover anyway," Koen Brabander says. "The Victus investment will enable more expansions like these. We want to increase our local presence. In the regions where we're working on new projects, we'd also like to have our own regional presence. That way, we can combat fragmentation of the market."

He continues: "Our clients are located in regions such as North America, the east coast of Canada, and Australia. The companies are very innovative, taking major steps forward. They keep on growing as well, and they don't let that growth depend on the capacity at PB Techniek. If we can't deliver, they'll look elsewhere. In that sense, we also have to scale up in order to keep up with clients. There comes a point when you shouldn't try to serve the whole world from the Westland or by plane, but actually be on the ground with servicemen and technical people. We can do that with more local branches."

The company has already started preparing for this future. "We are originally technicians and sales people, of course", Koen says. "That doesn't necessarily mean you're able to manage 150 people, or to lead an international company. You need the right people for that job." In March of this year, Richard Smit joined the company as its CEO - one of the steps taken to further professionalize the organization and gear up for further growth.

Victus Participations
The Victus Participations investment means that the plans for growth can now be executed. "In order to fund growth, there's two options: you go for corporate finance, or you join forces with a partner." The choice for Victus was made because of the shared vision on the market, and the network supplied by the organization. Victus is a relatively new fund. This summer, they collected 90 million euros, and the investment in PB Techniek (amounts haven't been announced) is the first one. Koen, Paul and Mark are also investing in the new, joint holding.

Victus focuses heavily on agri and food, sectors in which the fund managers built a track record. In today's edition of Dutch financial newspaper FD, founder and managing partner Patrick Groeneveld talks about the increasing demand for safely grown food. For PB Techniek, he foresees a revenue increase of 50% in the next three to five years.

"Victus brings us an interesting network, which was an important factor for us", Koen says. "In addition, they're not intending to manage the company, but they will facilitate. We share a common vision on the market, and that's our starting point for further cooperation."

Private equities in horticulture
PB Techniek isn't the first company this year to be taken over by an investment fund. BOAL Group and Codema preceded them this year. And Koen expects they won't be the last either. "Greenhouse horticulture is controlled by a small number of relatively small companies, while there's a lot of room for further growth. It's actually rather strange that we at PB Techniek, with a revenue of over 30 million, do projects in America, China, Canada and Australia, while local dealers there can't keep up. That's the mentality and know-how that's behind our company and the Dutch horticulture sector, which is seeing worldwide demand."

Now the challenge for PB Techniek is to continue to meet that demand. "The horticulture is looking for people everywhere who want to join in on our Westland mentality, and we're no exception to that. Thanks to this investment, we're closer to realizing our ambitions of remaining the best while continuing to grow heavily. And that in turn makes us more interesting to work for." 

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