Glimmer of hope for failed freezer firm

3rd May 2013 from John O'Groat Journal

A private equity company could be involved in taking over the failed Icetech freezer firm in Castletown.

The news emerged this week after provisional liquidator Campbell Dallas said it was exploring the possibility of a joint venture buying the Murrayfield business.

The Glasgow-based chartered accountants envisage the private equity business supplying the funding while its partner would provide the management and marketing expertise.

But David Hunter, head of the company’s significant business recovery and insolvency department, stressed there is only “an outside chance” such a venture could happen.

He told the John O’Groat Journal the arrangement could involve one of three firms - one in Ireland and two in England - which expressed an interest in Icetech before it went into liquidation.

Mr Hunter said his company would be advertising the opportunity on its website shortly. The information could reach many areas of the globe, including China, as the business has international links in various parts of the world.

“I don’t know how successful it will be but there is an outside chance it could work,” he said.

Icetech faced significant market competition from China and Mr Hunter did not rule out the possibility of a Chinese company becoming involved in the business. Many companies from China and the Far East have been investing in commercial concerns in Europe and other areas of the world.

Mr Hunter said he would be “very happy” if companies are interested in Icetech. “There have been some expressions of interest but not in taking over the business as a going concern,” he stated.

As well as trying to find a buyer for the firm, Mr Hunter and his colleagues have been busy carrying out statutory procedures, checking the accounts and compiling a list of creditors and debtors.

He also pointed out that an end-of-line factory sale is due to take place at the Icetech premises on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

Icetech went into liquidation last week with the loss of 70 jobs, although five staff have been retained for security reasons, to maintain production capacity and to tidy up the site. A total of 65 people have been made redundant.

Asked how long the remaining five employees will be kept on, Mr Hunter said there was no deadline.

The problems for Icetech began last November when electrical retailer Comet went into administration. It owed the freezer firm £900,000 and accounted for around 50 per cent of its production.

Icetech also provided freezers for Argos and Currys but never recovered from the loss of the Comet order despite support from owner, the Glasgow-based transport group John G Russell. Around 30 staff were paid off at that time and the business went on to a three-day week.

Efforts to attract outside investment or find a buyer failed and Russell’s withdrew its support from Icetech. Provisional liquidators were then appointed.

If no buyer can be found for the company - the UK’s last white goods manufacturer - it will be formally wound up following an application to the Court of Session.

John O'Groat Journal:

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