BY: Charlie Martin
Britishvolt today filed to appoint administrators and made the majority of its circa-300 staff redundant with immediate effect in a major blow to the future of UK manufacturing.
The news was broken to staff in a company-wide meeting at 12pm today, following failed efforts to sell a majority stake and secure the firm’s long-term sustainability.
The sale talks, which began last week, failed after the board decided that there were no viable bids to keep the company afloat.
They were held with three investment groups, according to various reports, one from Indonesia-linked fund Dealab, with no history in manufacturing, one comprising existing investors and one last-minute bid from a British consortium.
The Financial Times reported that Britishvolt chairman Peter Rolton told staff a late offer from shareholders had received investor support, but the company’s main creditors refused to back the deal, leaving no alternative to administration. The offer included a £30 million initial investment for near-total control of Britishvolt, followed by a further £128m injection, the FT added.
The company’s administration and insolvency will be handled by EY.
EY said in a statement: “The company has entered into administration due to insufficient equity investment for both the ongoing research it was undertaking and the development of its sites in the Midlands and the North East of England.”
Dan Hurd, joint administrator and partner at EY-Parthenon, added: “Our priorities as joint administrators are now to protect the interests of the company’s creditors, explore options for a sale of the business and assets, and to support the impacted employees.”
Britishvolt’s collapse is a major blow for the future of the UK’s automotive industry. At the time of writing, the only UK gigafactory to have secured deals with a global cell supplier and a major manufacturer is Envision AESC’s planned expansion at the Nissan factory in Sunderland. It promises an output of 11GWh from 2024, eventually rising to 38GWh, supplying batteries for the replacement for the Nissan Leaf.
Britishvolt’s gigafactory in Blyth, Northumberland, would have added an extra 38GWh to the nation’s total, bringing it significantly closer to the 100GWh output demanded by 2030.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the UK’s automotive industry, warned in November 2022 that the lack of domestic battery production threatens its future prosperity.
Britishvolt has experienced a months-long run of problems, including narrowly avoiding collapse in November after securing several million pounds in funding from mining firm Glencore. Combined with a voluntary pay cut for its near-300 staff, this gave it sufficient funding to survive until early December.
The company was previously prepared to enter administration after the UK government rejected a request for £30m in advance funding to prevent its collapse. It had been promised £100m to build its £3.8bn battery gigafactory through the Automotive Transformation Fund but hasn’t hit the construction milestones required to unlock the cash.
Repeated requests for funding – dwindling in value each time, from £30m to £11.5m and then £3m – sowed doubt in the government over the company’s viability