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Greybull enters pursuit of Britishvolt

Greybull Capital, the private equity group associated with the 2019 collapse of British Steel, has emerged as a potential late bidder for Britishvolt.

Executives from the controversial buyout group met with the defunct battery start-up’s management on Monday to discuss proposals, after being brought in recently as a possible saviour, according to two people with direct knowledge of the process.

Britishvolt, which had ambitions to build the UK’s largest battery factory, collapsed into administration two weeks ago, after the revenue-less venture ran out of cash and a last-minute rescue deal was blocked by its creditors.

Administrators at EY have asked bidders to submit firm offers by 5pm on Wednesday, and are pushing to close the deal by the end of the week, according to the people. Greybull is considering whether to submit a final bid, the people added.

The company and EY declined to comment.

Greybull, which was set up more than a decade ago and describes its investment approach as “entrepreneurial and responsible”, is most closely associated with the collapses of airline Monarch and British Steel.

When Monarch ceased trading overnight in 2017 whilst under Greybull’s ownership, the government was forced to arrange the return of about 100,000 stranded travellers — the largest British repatriation since the second world war.

During its period overseeing British Steel, Greybull was hailed as a saviour after it took over one of the UK’s last two steelworks in 2016 for a token £1. The deal with India’s Tata rescued more than 4,000 jobs and kept the company’s vast Scunthorpe site open.

British Steel went into insolvency just three years later, after talks with the government over a £30mn state bailout failed.

Its demise at the time sparked widespread criticism of the group’s stewardship. Greybull has previously defended its approach as backing the business plans and management teams of companies “that need to undergo a transformation”. 

A handful of other possible buyers for Britishvolt have been lined up, including Australian battery group Recharge Industries, the Indonesia-linked fund DeaLab, and there is a bid from a small group of Britishvolt shareholders.

On Monday, the FT reported that Orral Nadjari, Britishvolt’s founder who was ousted as chief executive last summer, is also preparing a bid for the business.

Suitors for the company are divided between wanting the group’s early-stage battery technology, which needs more funding to commercialise, and its factory location, a 93-hectare site at Blyth in Northumberland.

Currently, EY are seeking to sell the business as a whole rather than split it, in order to speed up the process, according to two people.

Any buyer of the site in Blyth will be bound by covenants on the land that require a battery factory to be constructed within a certain time period.

If EY fails to fix a buyer for the whole business within the next few days, then the land will be sold separately under a separate process by Begbies Traynor, the receiver for Britishvolt’s secured creditor.

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