Collapsed battery-maker Britishvolt triggers bidding war
A Norwegian battery company is circling the collapsed UK start-up Britishvolt amid a bidding war that has attracted five potential suitors.
A firesale of the failed “gigafactory” company, which had been aiming to build a battery plant near Blyth, Northumberland, has attracted multiple bids in a process run by administrators EY.
The Telegraph understands that Freyr, a Norwegian battery maker backed by the US billionaire Charles Koch, is among those interested. Freyr is listed on the New York stock exchange and worth $1.2bn (£970m).
The company’s name is taken from the old Norse god of peace and kingship. It is planning to build a battery factory in Norway, called Giga Arctic. Mr Koch’s energy business Koch Industries is building a plant with Freyr in the US.
Bidders were required to submit non-binding proposals earlier this week, with an Australian start-up run by entrepreneur David Collard the only party to have confirmed its interest.
A £30m offer from Recharge Industries, which is owned by Mr Collard's New York-based investment company Scale Facilitation, was reported to have made the cut. A bid from current investors was also reported to have made it through the first round.
Recharge Industries has claimed the support of Lord Ian Botham, the former England cricketer turned UK trade envoy to Australia. Mr Collard said “‘Beefy’ [Lord Botham] is very supportive. He wants people back in jobs.”
More than 200 staff lost their jobs when Britishvolt, which was backed by Glencore and had billed itself as the UK's battery champion, collapsed earlier this month.
The company had attracted support from Boris Johnson as a way to build a domestic electric vehicle battery industry. Ministers had earmarked £100m for the company.
However, Britishvolt's plans were repeatedly delayed. It appealed to ministers to release funding early in the form of a loan, but the Government refused.
On Friday, Orral Nadjari, the former chief executive of Britishvolt, accused the UK Government of a failed industrial policy. He said: “Nobody was there to help Britishvolt... the industrial policy in place lacks real foundations and wasn't conducive to growth.”
Ministers have said their funding was linked to clear milestones, which Britishvolt failed to meet.
Mr Collard, of Recharge Industries, said he was open to renegotiating the £100m that had been offered from the UK Government. “We have to deliver,” he said. He said the company would consider offering up its intellectual property as collateral to smooth any deal.
It was not clear if Freyr's interest had progressed to a formal offer or if it had been accepted by EY.
A spokesman for Freyr said the company did not comment on rumours or speculation. An EY spokesman declined to comment on the identity of the current bidders.
Two sources said Freyr had considered an approach for Britishvolt in the past, but this had not progressed.
A third source said that a former Britishvolt executive had been considering making an approach for the assets.