Australian battery group tops shortlist to buy Britishvolt

Britishvolt’s administrator EY has narrowed down the list of potential buyers of the collapsed UK battery start-up to five suitors, with Australian peer Recharge Industries among the leading contenders.

A consortium of existing investors in Britishvolt, which attempted last-gasp rescues of the battery maker before it fell into administration this month, is among the other groups to have made it through, according to three people familiar with the matter.

EY is under pressure to wrap up the process to sell a package of the company’s intellectual property and land by the end of the month after receiving indicative bids on Tuesday. Shortlisted bidders were told they had been chosen on Thursday, according to four people.

Britishvolt had been planning to build a £3.8bn gigafactory in Blyth, north-east England, that would have formed a keystone of the UK electric car industry but fell into administration this month after running out of cash.

If no deal is reached by the end of January, the site will be sold independently of the intellectual property, which includes battery technology, and 26 Britishvolt staff.

Recharge Industries, which is also planning to build a battery plant in the Australian city of Geelong, has made a bid of about £30mn. It has shown proof of funds to EY and executives from the company are visiting the Blyth site on Friday, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Australian company was launched in 2021 by Scale Facilitation, a New York-based investment vehicle that has backed a handful of start-ups in the medical technology and green energy sectors.

With only five days left, EY is working through bids to evaluate the value on offer for creditors and the extent to which the deals can pay off key suppliers that are owed funds and could then work with the new business.

Taking on the business will be complicated for any buyer because of the huge cash flow outlays needed either to take on Britishvolt’s strategy or to redraw it from scratch, adding to the challenge for EY in identifying whether bidders have access to sufficient funds.

The 26 retained staff, out of a workforce that previously topped 300, include many of the company’s highly paid battery experts.

Before it fell into administration this month the company was seeking close to £200mn in funding to keep it running until later this year, when it expects to receive orders from carmakers.

Britishvolt’s in-house technology is at a late prototype stage and requires more funding to commercialise. Several carmakers and battery experts that have tested its wares have deemed it impressive, and Mercedes-Benz placed a small order with the business last year, according to two people.

Buyers that show they have sufficient working capital will be hoping to secure the £100mn grant that the UK government had previously pledged to Britishvolt, although the eventual buyer is likely to have to reapply for the money, according to two people with knowledge of the process. Covenants on the site in Blyth require it to be used for a battery facility.

EY declined to comment.

Sabic, the Saudi Arabian petrochemicals company controlled by state oil group Saudi Aramco, had expressed interest in Britishvolt but has not made a formal bid, according to two people familiar with the matter. Sabic did not respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Michael O’Dwyer and Thomas Wilson in London


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