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Unravelling bankruptcy of greenhouse farm a hefty task

"It's not a simple business, straightforward." That's what the trustee in the bankruptcy of a large greenhouse horticulture company said late last year. An initial bankruptcy report shows why. A whole range of companies are involved in the bankruptcy. The trustee, who requested the help of four additional trustees, also ended up in Dubai in the investigation.

In a short period of time, the greenhouse growing company, which declared bankruptcy late last year, had accumulated a debt of EUR 5 million. Eventually, the energy supplier, to whom the company owed millions, filed for bankruptcy.

As the cause for the bankruptcy, the directors pointed to a "mismatch in an energy contract." Earlier this year, an energy supplier's claim to a biotech company also led to bankruptcy.

On 29 November 2022, bankruptcy was pronounced on Capsicum B.V. and also on the companies Colour Capsicum H, Colour Capsicum K, and Colour Capsicum R. On 6 December, bankruptcy was also pronounced on Colour Capsicum v.o.f. and Growers v.o.f. Zoetermeer-based trustee Mathieu Souren and his team have been entrusted with the investigation.

Energy contract
The bankruptcy was filed by the energy supplier. An energy contract was concluded in mid-January 2022. The directors now speak of "a mismatch." The contract required gas to be purchased at daily rates and electricity to be delivered back (via CHP) at a fixed price.

Bills were paid by the bankrupt company to the energy supplier until mid-August 2022. After that, it failed to meet its payment obligations. After seizure and starting proceedings on the merits, the energy supplier eventually ended up filing for bankruptcy. The trustee writes that the extent to which this story was "all-determining" for the bankruptcy remains to be investigated.

Real estate transactions in bankruptcy year
This is because the bankruptcy report reveals there was what the trustee earlier called "a complicated complex of facts." Until the end of 2021, the companies operated 56 hectares of glasshouses for growing greenhouse vegetables. Of these, half were also owned at that time.

In the year preceding the bankruptcy, 'the necessary transactions' took place. Real estate was sold by the bankrupt companies and delivered to the (indirect) directors in private. The trustee is investigating the nature and circumstances of these transactions.

At the time the bankruptcy was declared, a farm of 18.5 hectares in Made and of 9.7 hectares in Steenbergen were owned. A private limited company with offices in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates has (according to public records) a right of first mortgage (worth €33 million) on 26.5 hectares of greenhouse owned by the bankruptees.

The director of Capsicum B.V. is also a director/shareholder of the limited liability company in Dubai. The trustee is investigating the legal relations between the trustees, the director and the legal entity in Dubai. The trustee is also investigating the status of other mortgages. Besides the party from Dubai, two more mortgage holders were found.

Greenhouses leased out
Since September 2022, the owned greenhouses have been leased to a Made-based B.V. There is an oral lease agreement. The trustee is investigating a possible takeover of the insurance of (most) of the gardens that are 'currently leased.'

The first bankruptcy report brings a little more clarity to the bankruptcy, which was initially surrounded by question marks. Further investigation is needed on many issues, the trustee informed. There would be no outstanding debtors. Creditors have been written to. Before September 2022, the bankrupts traded with a Dutch and a Belgian trading partner.

In a forthcoming report, the trustee expects to include, among other things, an initial commentary on the legality of the bankruptcy. This is a regular item in bankruptcy reports.

The bankruptcy of Capsicum B.V. has been registered under reference 09. dha.22.261.F.1300.1.22. The bankruptcy was pronounced by the District Court of The Hague on 29 November. Mathieu Souren of Hoens & Souren Advocaten Zoetermeer has been appointed trustee.