The curator must choose which restart Van Hool will get

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On Tuesday morning, Van Hool will most likely decide to file for bankruptcy and the curator will have to choose between two concrete restart plans. One potential acquirer already made plans with Van Hool’s American distributor last year.

At Van Hool, the baton will be passed to the curator this week, because the recovery plan of restructuring specialist and co-CEO of the bus builder Marc Zwaaneveld could not be implemented. Zwaaneveld had indicated that bankruptcy after the end of March would be the only option due to the empty company coffers. The family assembly company is now close to that.

On Tuesday morning, Van Hool’s board of directors will most likely determine that the debt-laden company will have to close its books due to a lack of prospects. A special works council is planned at the head office in Koningshooikt around 11 a.m. to inform the unions about the further steps. Immediately afterwards, the 2,500 Belgian employees will be informed.

Then you have to wait until the bankruptcy is actually declared. “In normal files, this usually takes a day or two, but we expect that a decision will follow more quickly,” says Christophe Van Audenhove, secretary at the liberal trade union ACLVB. Speed ​​is crucial, because there are chances of a restart at Van Hool.

The curators will probably receive two concrete proposals for a restart from Zwaaneveld and Van Hool. The first is a takeover bid from Dumarey Group. In addition, there is a tandem of the Dutch sector colleague VDL and the German Schmitz Cargobull.

“Those parties are in the starting blocks when the curator takes over,” says Van Audenhove. Although there is a chance that other candidates will present themselves, such as a fourth, smaller player, who emerged at the end of last week.

Court is prepared

The Antwerp corporate court Mechelen division is prepared. Van Hool previously received protection from creditors. Last week, two curators were appointed: lawyers Kris Van den Berghen, who previously supervised a major industrial bankruptcy with the Mechelen transformer builder Pauwels (CG Power Systems), and Jeroen Pinoy, known as the curator of the Lierse football club.

The unions expect that they will soon be involved in the future plans. “Our contact details have already been passed on,” says Van Audenhove. ‘We want as many jobs as possible to be saved, but there are also creditors. The curator has a difficult job,” says Hans Vaneerdewegh, secretary of ABVV Metaal.

Entrepreneur Guido Dumarey, who has been active in the automotive manufacturing industry for decades, made a concrete offer last week to take over the entire Van Hool group. He emphasized that he also wants to continue building buses in Koningshooikt, which went further than Zwaaneveld’s recovery plan. Dumarey, whose asset is that he can switch quickly, is financially and industrially a few sizes smaller than the Dutch-German tandem.

The industrial group VDL, which builds buses in Roeselare, among other places, is particularly interested in parts of Van Hool’s bus and coach division. The Dutch company is working together with Schmitz Cargobull, which is interested in the trailers (Industrial Vehicles) division, in which it is a major European player.

Foot in the door

It is remarkable that potential acquirer VDL has been circling Van Hool’s American distributor for some time. Various sources confirm to De Tijd that VDL already made plans last year with the American bus distributor and repairer ABC Companies. In a response, a VDL spokesperson confirms ‘that an agreement of intent was concluded in December between VDL and ABC to sell VDL coaches in the United States’.


Prospective acquirer VDL already concluded a letter of intent with Van Hool’s American distributor in December.

Van Hool’s relationship with ABC is one of the bus builder’s few real crown jewels. ABC has an extensive sales network in the large American market for buses and coaches, which gives Van Hool one of its most important sales markets for coaches. The company from Koningshooikt also holds a significant minority interest of 38 percent of the shares of ABC.

However, ABC has reportedly been concerned about Van Hool’s future for some time. To guarantee the steady supply of coaches, it started looking for possible other suppliers of coaches in the second half of last year. ABC had known VDL as a parts supplier for some time.

The deal is extra remarkable because Van Hool’s co-CEO, Filip Van Hool, has a seat on ABC’s board of directors and must therefore have been aware of the plans to acquire a second European coach supplier. With the declaration of intent, VDL already has a foot in the door at ABC, even if Van Hool is taken over by another party.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: curator choose restart Van Hool

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