Britishvolt founder to bid for bankrupt battery start-up

The ousted founder of Britishvolt is preparing a bid to try to buy back the defunct battery start-up out of administration, according to people with knowledge of the process.

Orral Nadjari, who founded the business in 2019 but was removed as its chief executive last summer, entered a non-binding bid for the company with administrators EY last week and is expected to submit a binding offer before Tuesday’s deadline, the people said.

The funding for the move, which is believed to be between £25mn and £30mn, has been raised from individuals across the UAE, where Nadjari is based, they added.

He is principally interested in the company’s nascent battery technology, which is still in the prototype stage and requires more funding to commercialise, rather than its factory site at Blyth, Northumberland, which has been the focus of other possible bidders.

Britishvolt, which harboured ambitions to build the UK’s largest battery gigafactory, had been seeking funding to develop its batteries for market and had expected to receive its first significant orders from carmakers later this year.

But the business, which has yet to generate revenues and had employed hundreds of staff, fell into administration earlier this month, after running out of cash.

Its collapse was a blow to UK ambitions to develop a homegrown battery maker to serve the car industry and comes as governments across Europe and the world vie to attract battery investments.

Britishvolt’s prospective factory site in Blyth is likely to be developed as a battery factory by whichever group eventually buys the company, as there are covenants on the land that require it to be used for that purpose.

A handful of bidders have been shortlisted by EY, including Australian battery start-up Recharge Industries and a group of current shareholders, who launched a last-ditch attempt to buy the company before its administration earlier this month.

The administrators need to find a buyer this week in order to prevent the company, which has retained 26 people, from being wound up completely, according to people with knowledge of the timing.

Nadjari proved to be a controversial leader of Britishvolt, bringing together battery experts and setting a vision for the business but with an ebullient style that made relations with the UK government and some investors difficult.

In an interview with the FT last year, he described himself as having a “bulldozer visionary entrepreneurial spirit” and called the company “my baby”. 

He left the company last summer, though he remained its largest shareholder until the business collapsed into administration.

Although based in Abu Dhabi, he returned to the UK last week and gave several media interviews, including one to the FT where he criticised the UK’s industrial strategy.

Nadjari, reached by WhatsApp on Monday evening, declined to comment, saying he had signed an NDA.

Britishvolt’s administrator EY declined to comment.

Australia’s Recharge Industries, which is led by a former PwC partner, is believed to be the favoured bidder of the shortlisted groups.

It is mainly interested in the factory site at Blyth, which is reckoned to be one of the best in Europe for making batteries, because of its access to clean power.


Business Asia
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