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740 jobs saved as Liberty acquires leading British automotive supplier
Fast-growing industrial group, Liberty House, has made another major advance into the automotive supply sector by acquiring high-profile Tier 1 vehicle pressings and assemblies manufacturer, CovPress, which had been in administration since September last year.
The deal completed with administrators Grant Thornton UK LLP overnight (Tues 10th – Wed 11th Jan) secures the jobs of 740 skilled workers at the firm’s 33,000 square metre plant in Canley, Coventry.
Liberty Industries Group, part of Liberty House Group, which already has 17 engineering businesses employing over 1,000 people across the West Midlands, regards the CovPress acquisition as a strong strategic fit with its established and rapidly-expanding presence in the automotive supply chain.
Only three weeks ago the Group completed the purchase of the UK’s only aluminium smelter at Fort William and announced plans for auto-component manufacturing there as part of a £450m industrial and energy investment in the Scottish Highlands.
Over 50% of all components used in the one million plus cars assembled in the UK are imported. Under their GREENSTEEL and GREENMETAL strategy, Liberty and sister company, SIMEC, aim to reduce reliance on imports and supply the country’s vehicle manufacturers with more components made locally from British aluminium and steel using renewable energy and recycled metal. The Group’s strategy is to create a fully-integrated UK industrial supply chain, from raw metal production through to highly-engineered products such as the Liberty 920e advanced braking systems, which epitomise the auto-sector’s evolution towards lighter more efficient components.
CovPress, a professional metal stamping and robotic assembly specialist, is a Tier 1 supplier to Jaguar Land Rover(JLR), Renault and GM, while Liberty Industries already supplies a range of components to JLR, Nissan and BMW as well as Gestamp, Unipres, Benteler, GKN, Adient, Calsonic, SNOP and Cummins. In addition, CovPress supplies components to Landis & Gyr the global industry leader in intelligent metering solutions for utilities.
The business, which will be renamed Liberty Pressing Solutions, has existed on the Canley site for 120 years. It has benefited from major investment in the latest plant and machinery since being acquired by the previous owners in 2013 and its engineers have established a strong reputation for devising innovative design solutions for customers. This acquisition complements Liberty’s existing automotive pressed components facility in the West Midlands which also forms part of the new enlarged Liberty Pressing Solutions division.
The CovPress product range covers body in white and trim components including A/B/C/D pillars, suspension housings, fuel tank protectors, stiffener frames and wheel arches for numerous mainstream vehicles.
ABN AMRO Commercial Finance will be providing financing via an asset based facility. The bank is a key player in Invoice Finance and Asset Based Lending across Europe with presence in the UK, France and Germany, alongside its original Dutch footprint.
Referring to the latest acquisition, Douglas Dawson, chief executive of Liberty Industries Group, said: “We are very familiar with the high quality of the operation at Covpress and the skills and equipment in the business. As such we are extremely pleased they are becoming part of the Liberty Industries Group.
“We have drawn up a detailed plan to ensure the future sustainability and profitability of the business. That will include ongoing capital investment, strengthened financial management and the benefits that will come from joint purchasing and marketing with our other operations in the UK,” he added.
Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of the Liberty House Group, said: “There exists a huge opportunity for Britain’s industrial supply chain to achieve dynamic growth through becoming more innovative and competitive. By adding quality operations like CovPress to Liberty’s already thriving network, we aim to play a leading part in this landmark economic shift.”
Joint administrator, Eddie Williams of Grant Thornton, said: “CovPress is a fundamentally strong business. After an extensive sale process which involved significant expressions of interest, I am delighted to have concluded a sale which provides the workforce with some good news in early 2017. I would like to thank the workforce, the customers and the suppliers for their significant support over the last few months since my appointment.
“The successful sale to Liberty not only provides a secure future for this pivotal Midlands engineering enterprise but means the administrators should also have funds available to distribute to creditors.
“In particular I would like to thank Liberty, and ITS as the pensions scheme trustee, and all their advisors for working constructively alongside the Grant Thornton pensions team and our advisors on the transfer of the pension scheme as part of this sale. This has avoided the scheme passing into the Pension Protection Fund through an ongoing employer which we understand has never been previously achieved for a business in administration. This has been pivotal to the outcome of the administration.”
Timothy Sharples, partner with pension specialists, Lane Clark & Peacock LLP, who advised Liberty said: “LCP was able to help Liberty House to assess whether the potential advantages from the purchase would be sufficient to cover the additional risks that the business would have from the pension scheme. The solution is a good outcome for all the parties concerned; particularly the members of the pension scheme who can now look forward to receiving their benefits in full rather than reduced benefits from the Pension Protection Fund.”
Pierre Vinci, Head of UK Corporate and International at ABN AMRO Commercial Finance, said: “We are very glad that Covpress has found a strong buyer in Liberty House Group. Their growing presence in the UK industrial sector is undeniable and we are looking forward to further develop the relationship. This transaction demonstrates the continuous commitment from ABN AMRO Commercial Finance to the UK market.”
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