Co-founded in 1999 by CEO Stefan Lepionka, with Simon Neal and All Blacks rugby hero Marc Ellis as a partner and celebrity figurehead, Charlie’s grew swiftly into New Zealand’s leading supplier of fresh, premium fruit juice.
In July 2005, the company floated on the New Zealand Stock Exchange. A few months later, Charlie’s acquired Phoenix Organics, a New Zealand producer of organic juice that also had a presence on the bigger Australian market.
Charlie’s problems arose after the company acquired new production facilities in Australia, with the aim of establishing its own juice brand on the Australian market. Unfortunately, it coincided with the global credit crunch and a cutback in consumer spending on premium products.
Charlie’s revealed in its interim results that it made a net loss of $418,000 in the half-year to December, and also defaulted on its banking credit agreements. Although the banks extended Charlie’s overdraft facility, the company was forced to seek new finance.
In June, Lepionka said there had been offers to buy the company, but no one had come up with enough money. Or, as he put it: “Despite indicative interest from various industry participants, at or around current market pricing, the board has determined that none of the approaches are at an attractive level at this time.”
Lepionka added that, pending better offers, Charlie’s would continue fighting its patch in New Zealand and Australia.
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