Britain\’s biggest cigarette wholesaler, Palmer & Harvey (P&H), collapsed into administration on Tuesday, with around 2,500 staff facing redundancy, its administrator PwC announced.
The 90-year-old company, which also provides alcohol, groceries and frozen food to 90,000 retail accounts — including Britain\’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco — failed in attempts to secure a buyer.
The firm, which employs about 3,400 people, held exclusive takeover talks with the Carlyle Group in October, but the US private equity fund\’s offer of a significant capital investment in exchange for a controlling stake did not progress.
It had also been working with stakeholders Imperial Brands and Japan Tobacco International in a bid to find relief from thin profit margins and a substantial debt burden.
PwC confirmed P&H, one of the largest British companies not listed on the London Stock Exchange, would immediately shed 2,500 jobs at the firm\’s head office in Hove, southern England, and branch network, with 900 remaining staff still at risk.
Matthew Callaghan, joint administrator and PwC partner, said: "This is a devastating blow for everyone who has been involved in the business.
"The administration team will focus on working with employees, clients and suppliers to facilitate a smooth and effective wind-down or transfer of operations over the next few weeks."