Santander secures farmers a farm of their own
A sheep farming family secures their future with a farm to call their own
- Company turnover: £250,000
- Sector: Agriculture
- Patrick and Kirsty Sowerby are highly respected sheep farmers who have been rearing flocks of prized Swaledale sheep for many years.
- A new landlord wanted to change the business model for the farm, so the Sowerbys had to look at relocating.
- They approached a number of banks for funding to buy their own farm, however, the complications of funding the agriculture sector meant they struggled to find someone who would take it on.
- The Santander team spent time with the Sowerbys to gain an in-depth knowledge of the farm, its history and its potential, before offering funding.
- The deal could have fallen through due to a low valuation of their flock by an independent valuer, but Santander’s determination to ensure the outcome was fair ensured the deal went ahead.
- The Sowerbys also transferred their business’ Current Account to Santander, a process made simple by Santander’s seven-day Current Account Switch Guarantee.
- With a term loan facility and banking in place, the Sowerbys were able to realise their dream of owning their own farm.
Sheep rearing can be big business, with the most successful breeders earning tens of thousands of pounds for a single, well-bred animal. As one of the most respected sheep-rearing families in the industry, Patrick Sowerby and his wife Kirsty have made a good living throughout their career. However, when their incumbent landlord passed away, the new generation who inherited the farm had a preference for a business model based on shooting.
A complex arrangement
With quality land costing in the region of £10,000 an acre, and a viable farming business likely to require hundreds of acres, the Sowerbys had little prospect of owning their own farm outright. They also had to consider the difficulties of relocating their flock, and the specific financial considerations for farm purchases – namely an extended purchase period to cover setting up the business and premises before relocation.
All these factors can result in a logistical headache and make financing more complicated for farmers. It also means there is more administration for banks, so it came as no great surprise to Patrick when he was turned down by several banks before approaching Santander.
Sitting down to business
Relationship Director Phil Hartop and Relationship Manager Darren Smith met the Sowerbys on a number of occasions in order to fully understand the business and work out a bespoke finance package.
“For us, the biggest factor in deciding whether the deal was viable was the Sowerbys themselves,” says Phil. “Could they get their flock relocated and would they be able to create a viable business? Once we knew they could, the risk involved became a lot smaller.”
At one stage, an independent valuation of the Sowerby’s flock proved to be a potential stumbling block for the deal: the valuer placed a far lower figure on the flock than Patrick had delivered to the Santander relationship team.
“It was a real problem; the valuation went horribly wrong and we needed to do some explaining,” says Patrick. “I knew how much the sheep were worth because I’ve raised and sold them countless times before. But the valuer didn’t have the right amount of experience and got it completely wrong.”
The personal approach
This could have placed the whole deal in jeopardy. However, the Santander team’s willingness to take a holistic view of the business – by taking time to understand the owners and thoroughly check the financials – meant they had a more insightful view; and the deal went ahead. “The bank has been very understanding of the situation,” says Patrick. “There’s a big element of trust but it’s backed up by hard figures.”
The anatomy of the deal
Having rescued the deal between them, Santander and the Sowerbys agreed on a term loan based on a percentage of the farm’s value – that included a period of interest-only payments. The Sowerbys also agreed to transfer their main business’ Current Account to Santander, a process made simple by the bank’s seven-Day Current Account Switch Guarantee. “There weren’t many banks that would even look at our situation,” says Patrick. “Santander made the process easy and they’re good at communicating, so I’m singing their praises.”
Securing the future
The deal took four months to complete and the Sowerbys moved to their new farm in November last year. The deal has given the family security of tenure and a farm that can be passed on for generations to come.
“To complete this move, they had to shrink the size of their flock quite substantially,” says Phil. “But now they have a strong platform on which to build a great future.”
All lending is subject to status.
Download this client story as a PDF file (262KB)
Relationship Director Comments
The sheep are incredibly valuable and Mr Sowerby has a fantastic reputation. We could only understand the true potential of this business by getting to know it intimately over several months.