234 jobs disappear in the Dordogne after the judicial liquidation

A monument of industrial carpentry in Périgord has just collapsed with the decision taken, Thursday 28 April 2022, by the Commercial Court of Périgueux to order the liquidation of Nouvelles Menuiseries Grégoire, in Saint-Martial-d’Artenset (Dordogne). Decision that involves the closure of the construction site from this Friday, April 29 and the loss of 234 jobs, from a union source, and a huge industrial tool consisting in particular of 55,000 square meters of building.

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Due to its importance, the company employed up to 800 employees with a peak turnover of 100 million euros between the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s, Grégoire could not escape the radar of the banks or those of the Nouvelle -Aquitaine Regional and state services. And when it became clear at the end of the 2010s that this emblematic company in the industrial carpentry sector was in danger of disappearing, the state and communities did not hesitate to put their hands in their pockets to try to avoid the worst.

A backlash from the 2008 financial crisis?

“It’s a big, extremely delicate topic. Probably the most important accident at work in recent years … a long descent into hell in the world of companies in difficulty”, introduces a source close to the historical dossier.

The latter explains that Menuiseries Grégoire suffered from sometimes irrelevant business strategies, but also from certain circumstances.

“In 2007, the Grégoire family sold part of the company to the Parquest investment fund. This sale was unique in that it was based on an OBO (owner for out / self-purchase – Ed.), An operation that allows the owner of a company to transfer its assets more easily by reselling part of them to a new shareholder. This allows it to generate cash, liquidity and secure assets. But it seems that the valuation of the assets of Menuiseries Grégoire is done on this occasion was generous. I did not say prohibitive. It was the financial crisis of 2008 that precipitated things, thus preventing Parquest from canceling the starting price effect “, rewinds the analyst, who sees the origin of the bankruptcy filing ten years later.

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Takeover: the preferred lender to the professional in the sector

When this 2018 budget clash occurred, Menuiseries Grégoire was in very bad shape but everyone still believed in it. With Parquest as owner, the file is sent to the Commercial Court of Paris. With two buyers representing two main options for the acquisition. Prudentia Capital, a newly created investment fund that wants to sign its first financial transaction with Menuiseries Grégoire, in front of an important player in the sector, the Lorillard group, specialized in carpentry, supported by CM-CIC (Crédit Mutuel) Investissement and the fund investment firm (Crédit Agricole).

“There was a financier competing with a professional in the sector and obviously the court had to detain the worst of the two, the financier!” Protests Yves Dangelaud, CFDT union representative at Joineries Grégoire.

Prudentia Capital may have been co-founded by a former member of the Ciri (Interministerial Committee for Industrial Restructuring), but mayonnaise really won’t take:

“While everyone had kept Lorillard’s file, the commercial court had to choose Prudentia Capital. Probably because in addition to a former employee of Ciri, the fund was financed by Bpifrance. But you have to know that by that time the company had already suffered and lost huge clients like Bouygues or Eiffage. It took a size of the trade to recover all of this. Especially since the previous team had stopped investing in the production tool, “decodes a connoisseur of the file.

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Despite 10 million euros of contribution is the collapse

Taken by the throat, the new team will fall into a headlong rush, particularly by slashing prices to try to make a turnover, he explains.

“Attention, they were not criminals and they injected a little over ten million euros into the company, but they opted for the wrong strategy. In 2021 a very effective manager, Xavier Palle, was appointed head of the company but it was too late. With this context of Covid-19 and the internal problems it would have taken him two years to succeed when he had only one “, concludes the expert in art.

An industrial tool too heavy to handle

Seen from within the company, the perception goes in the same direction. Yves Dangeleaud particularly criticizes Prudentia Capital for never making an effort to listen to the proposals of the employees, who knew the business perfectly, and also recognizes the great competence of Xavier Palle. The union leader does not understand that the investment fund did not take into account the three warnings issued by the unions on what they considered an operational drift of the company in the most critical phase.

“However, several buyers have come to Saint-Martial-d’Artenset in the last few weeks to see Menuiseries Grégoire. Some have stayed there for ten days, which is the maximum time before starting to bid,” emphasizes Yves Dangelaud.

Yet no one has gone that far. For the trade unionist it was the size of the industrial tool that frightened him, with 30 hectares of surface and 55,000 square meters of buildings.

No more the minimum euro nor the minimum prospect

A solution was devised that would involve communities, to relieve buyers of the burden of this site with a formula that allowed them to rent. But the idea couldn’t go through with it. Not because it was complicated to implement but, according to a financial source, because there was no money left.

“There he really went to the bone, he became skeletal, there was no longer any prospect,” this source regrets.

All types of financing combined, the Region injected nearly 3.3 million euros to bail out Menuiseries Grégoire, while the State (with the banks) granted 4.8 million euros of PGE (State Guaranteed Loan) to the company. del Périgord, plus € 0.2 million in aid. The list closes – according to sources very close to the file – with a tax and social security debt of 5 million euros.

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Contacted by La Tribune, the company’s management refused to speak.