Prospective acquirers of Van Hool launch higher bid in extra time

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Van Hool buys time in the bankruptcy file. The bids from the prospective buyers for the Lierse bus builder were found to be insufficient, giving them an extra day to submit a higher bid. Work is now continuing to prepare for a restart.

No agreement has yet been reached with the prospective buyers of bus builder Van Hool. The bankruptcy ruling will therefore be postponed by at least one week in consultation with the court. “We want to take the time to safeguard the possibility of a quick restart,” a press release said.

The potential acquirers that were already known – the West Flemish entrepreneur Guido Dumarey and the industrial tandem VDL-Schmitz – made a new, higher offer on Tuesday for (parts of) Van Hool. This has been confirmed to De Tijd. They were given up to 18 hours to submit a better offer after their first proposal was deemed insufficient by the banks and the company. The third party, which emerged in extremis last week, is also still at the table. That turns out to be Vlastuin, a Dutch family business active in steel and trailer construction (see inset).

The last candidate acquirer is a Dutch family business with a turnover of 100 million

The third candidate acquirer in the Van Hool dossier is the Dutch metal group Vlastuin. Several sources reported this to De Tijd. Vlastuin is a supplier to the metal industry, but is also active in the production of trailers through its subsidiary D-Tec. That is why the Dutch are mainly interested in the Industrial Vehicles division.

When it emerged last week that a third party had emerged in extremis, it was described as ‘a small shrimp’. Vlastuin is no small group in the sector, but it does play in a different category than VDL and Schmitz Cargobull, who are joining forces in this dossier. Serial entrepreneur Guido Dumarey is also a candidate buyer. According to the latest available figures (from 2019), Vlastuin has a turnover of 100 million euros. At VDL and Schmitz, turnover amounts to several billions per year.

VDL-Schmitz also has the big advantage in the negotiations that it forms a tandem: VDL goes for the buses, Schmitz for the industrial branch. If Vlastuin also finds a partner for the buses – according to our information this is not yet the case – ‘the little shrimp’ might still have a chance.

The extra time is also at the request of the intended curators, the lawyers Kris Van den Berghen and Jeroen Pinoy. They have been appointed according to the procedure of the so-called silent bankruptcy or the ‘pre-pack’ procedure: even before the bankruptcy is actually declared, everything is prepared behind the scenes to realize a restart as quickly and efficiently as possible. Maximum efforts will be made on this in the coming days.

For the 2,400 Belgian employees, it will be another seven days of nail-biting, much to the dismay of the unions. Van Hool’s coffers were empty at the end of March, meaning there is no money to pay wages this week. That is why full use is made of temporary unemployment. Van Hool previously also received protection from his creditors.

The wages for March have been paid, according to the unions. “Having to spend another week in uncertainty hit the staff hard,” says Christophe Van Audenhove of the liberal union. ‘But it does mean that there is potential in the takeover talks. We can only welcome the fact that negotiations are taking place for as long as possible to maintain maximum employment.’


We want to take the time to safeguard the possibility of a quick restart.

Financing

When restructuring specialist and co-CEO Marc Zwaaneveld submits a proposal to the corporate court next week, the race is not over yet. An essential part of the discussions is financing. Van Hool’s cash register is empty. Money is needed for a successful restart. It is not known how much the parties put on the table. What is certain is that tens of millions of euros are needed to allow Van Hool to make a full-fledged restart.

Then the Flemish government may also come into the picture again. He can act as a guarantor through Gigarant to persuade the banks to grant loans. Although the question has not yet been asked, Flanders indicates that it will ‘view it sympathetically’ if it comes to that.

Flanders is already directly involved in the bankruptcy with a guarantee provided by Gigarant on the bus builder’s current loans. Flanders now guarantees a total of 30 million euros. If Van Hool goes bankrupt, the loss is estimated at 18 to 20 million euros.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Prospective acquirers Van Hool launch higher bid extra time

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