Australian battery company signals plan to bid for Britishvolt

An Australian battery company has made a preliminary bid for collapsed UK battery producer Britishvolt as it seeks to capitalise on closer ties forged between Australia and the UK over the past year to rescue the business.

David Collard, founder of Recharge Industries, told the Financial Times that he will tour the Britishvolt site in Northumberland this week and meet British government officials before making a formal offer.

Collard said Britain’s free trade agreement with Australia and the Aukus security alliance should reinforce the benefits of combining Britishvolt with his company’s existing plan to construct a battery factory in Geelong, a coastal city in Australia, by 2024.

“We’re a pin that brings it all together,” he said, adding that Recharge already has the backing of Jefferies and another international bank.

The collapse of Britishvolt this month extinguished the UK’s hopes of incubating a world-leading global battery maker. The business, once valued at £700mn, is expected to attract bids of less than £10mn.

Collard is up against a dozen potential bidders for the site, which include Jaguar Land Rover owner Tata Motors and DeaLab, a London-based financial group with close links to Indonesia.

Administrators are expected to sell the remnants of the business — including its site located in Blyth and 26 technical staff — by the end of the month.

The UK government offered Britishvolt £100mn in funding, before it collapsed, based on the condition that it must begin construction work on the site in Blyth, Northumberland to unlock the money. Collard said Recharge would want to secure that money if it takes over.

Recharge was launched in 2021 by Scale Facilitation, ex-PwC partner Collard’s New York-based investment vehicle which has backed a handful of start-ups in the medical technology and green energy sectors.

Collard said that he had been approached by Britishvolt six months ago, when the British company was seeking financing options, but it was then focused on the Geelong site.

He said the company’s strategy had fundamental weaknesses in its business model, including a decision to only focus on batteries for the electric vehicle market instead of diversifying into energy infrastructure.

He added that Britishvolt had burnt through too much cash building its own intellectual property for new battery technology and stoking external expectations of its potential. “It’s a mountainous process to start from scratch,” he said.

Collard said that Recharge would likely transfer its lithium-ion battery technology being used at the Geelong plant to Blyth to speed up the revival of the British site.

That would mean switching technologies to batteries based on lithium, rather than cobalt and nickel as was planned, but Collard said that would enable Recharge to achieve efficiencies of scale by constructing both plants at the same time.

He said that Recharge’s existing global chain of 230 suppliers could be linked with the British business to accelerate its launch.

The 38-year-old Australian warned there was a risk of Britishvolt being acquired by a Chinese company looking to strengthen its hold over the global battery market.

He said an Anglo-Australian business would instead offer a chance to forge closer advanced manufacturing ties between the two countries.

“We’re not here to jump in and jump out,” said Collard of the Britishvolt proposal.


Business Asia
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