Once Upon A Time – a Story started in late 2011 and finished Today!

Once upon a time, there was a Bavarian money lender who, during 1923, split into separate companies at the height of German inflation. One arm of the company continued to offer banking services while the other started selling farming equipment to Bavarian farmers.

By the 1960’s the company had become the biggest Bavarian distributor of tractors and combine harvesters and operated several hundred service centres across Bavaria. At around the same time diesel and engine oil gets added to the offer.

In the 1980’s the company expanded into the building sector and started marketing all components required to build houses and commercial buildings. Following German reunification in the 1990’s the company then expands into East Germany and Austria. At some stage during that period three business segments emerge in which the company intends to become the market leader; these being the Agribusiness, Building and Energy sectors.

Fast forward to 2011, the company in question BayWa Aktiengesellschaft is now spread over 14 countries and has recently announced that it has purchased Turners and Growers, subject to overseas investment approval.

And this is how far I got in 2011.  The story became a draft waiting to be finished…

In late January 2013, I was reviewing the calendars the postie had delivered before Christmas…and being a Turners & Growers shareholder just for the principle of the matter, I started looking for the T & G version. A the first attempt it eluded me. Shuffling through the pile of calendars a second time I thought, “no, it can’t be…” But sure enough…there it was. imageThe only problem being that I could only recognise by way of its colour initially.  There were no logos on the front page.  Nor on the back page.  No product brands anywhere other than in the calendar photos themselves.  No contact details. Nothing.  Apart from the colour, there were two dead give aways though.  The first one was the fact that every calendar photo depicts either Jazz apples, Jazz apple trees or dishes prepared with Jazz apples.  The second is the small print recorded against 17 January.  From a marketing perspective, I cannot fathom why one would not tell the recepients of one’s calendar the name of one’s company, regardless of the name one wants to use.  From a strategic perspective… Some of the other brands which used to feature on the T&G calendar did have some relevance in terms of positioning the business in the market place.image Things are obviously changing and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  But how are we to interprete the calendar and its theme?  What message are we getting here?  Only apples will be branded in future and everything else will be sold in commodity format? The company will focus on key category sourcing for global markets only?  The domestic produce business no longer derserves strategic consideration?  All of these could be valid strategic choices, the prerogative of an owner who knows what he wants.  As a shareholder, I have some views on what I would like to see happening from a dividend perspective.  As someone with a degree of industry nouse, I see some interesting times ahead for our oldest produce merchant.

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