The UK battery start-up Britishvolt plans to appoint administrators after last-ditch efforts to secure emergency funding from a group of investors failed.
The company on Tuesday filed a notice to the High Court that it intended to appoint an administrator, a move that threatens to undermine the UK’s ambitions to create its own battery manufacturing powerhouse.
The decision comes after months of uncertainty in which Britishvolt had been surviving on short-term rescue funding and tax rebates while it searched for a viable long-term owner of the business. The company had hoped to build a £3.8bn battery plant in north-east England.
A late offer from a band of shareholders was selected by the board as a “preferred offer” on Friday, but was eventually dismissed at a meeting on Monday, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. Some shareholders had balked at the deal, which would have all but wiped out their holdings.
A memo sent to staff late on Friday evening said “no final decision” had been made on the company’s future, but that the board had selected a “preferred offer” and would work over the weekend on the deal. An all-staff meeting planned for Monday morning to update employees on the situation was twice delayed, then rescheduled to Tuesday.
Tabled last week, the shareholder offer included a £30mn investment for almost total control of the company, with £128mn of further funding to follow.
But many existing shareholders dismissed the offer, which would have diluted their holdings and resulted in the new owners controlling more than 90 per cent of the company.
Had the shareholder deal gone ahead, Britishvolt expected to receive the first instalment of funds this week, according to an investment timeline seen by the Financial Times.
The administration puts about 300 jobs in jeopardy, and imperils the company’s hopes of becoming a driving force in UK battery production.
The group’s only major asset is its rights to a potential vast site at Blyth in Northumberland, where it hoped to build a £3.8bn gigafactory.
The site is widely regarded as the ideal location for a battery factory because of its size, transport links and access to clean energy.
Britishvolt also has in-house battery technology it has developed, but which is still at the prototype stage.
Founded in 2019, Britishvolt marketed itself as the UK’s hope for a homegrown battery manufacturing champion that secured investment from blue-chip companies Glencore and Ashtead, a pledge of £100mn of government funding and formed a big part of former prime minister Boris Johnson’s plans for a “green industrial revolution”.
As well as the now-rejected shareholder bid, the company received a takeover offer from little-known Indonesia-linked fund DeaLab, which was for similar terms to the shareholder bid.
Two people with knowledge of the discussions said DeaLab did not have sight of its initial funds as of Friday, despite having secured the longer-term portion of the funding, which ultimately led the board to select the shareholder offer.
DeaLab has not responded to several requests for comment since it was publicly named on Tuesday as the suitor. Its website lists few details of its activities, and its UK entity employs only three people, according to accounts filed earlier this week.