Britishvolt shareholders pitch rival bid to thwart Indonesian takeover

A small band of Britishvolt shareholders have submitted a late counterbid to take over the company, in an effort to prevent a deal by an Indonesia-linked investment fund that would come close to wiping out the current investors in the struggling battery start-up.

Three early investors in the group have submitted a £30mn offer to the board, matching the bid made by DeaLab Group, but at a fractionally higher valuation for the business, according to two people.

The rival offer was hastily assembled by the three existing Britishvolt shareholders after seeing DeaLab’s proposed valuation of £32mn, more than 90 per cent lower than a price set a year ago for the company of more than £700mn in a funding agreement.

The new alliance is so fresh that the name of the acquiring company on the letter is “TBC1” — short for to be confirmed.

They are talking to other shareholders about joining their group, or taking part in future investments, according to one of the investors, who asked to remain anonymous.

The trio have offered to put in £30mn for a 92.5 per cent share of the company, according to the letter sent to the board on Tuesday evening. This is fractionally lower than the 95 per cent control that DeaLab offered for its £30mn. 

Under both deals, a second investment of £128mn would follow later in the year, allowing the company to keep running until it is able to get firm orders from carmakers for its fledgling battery technology.

The rival bid comes as the board of Britishvolt tries to muster shareholder support for the DeaLab offer, writing to investors ahead of a crucial vote this Friday.

Chair Peter Rolton told investors the company would likely fall into administration if the deal with DeaLab is not approved, which would be “catastrophic”, though the company also pledged to take seriously any additional offers.

Founded in 2019, Britishvolt branded itself the UK’s posterboy for developing a homegrown battery industry through its plans to develop a £3.8bn plant in Blyth, north-east England.

But the business, which has yet to generate revenue, has been seeking emergency funding since late last year in order to commercialise its homegrown battery technology.

Britishvolt has some large shareholders, such as FTSE 100 groups Glencore and Ashtead, but also has many small or early-stage investors, as well as early employees.

Its largest investor is founder Orral Nadjari, followed by Cathexis, the private equity firm of William Harrison, which owns the project contractor ISG. None of them are involved in the counter-offer.

DeaLab Group, which keeps a deliberately low profile, is an investment group with links to Indonesia fronted by former JPMorgan banker Reza Eko. It has yet to respond to several requests for comment from the Financial Times.

The business is exploring investments in other parts of the electric vehicle supply chain, such as nickel, and believes controlling Britishvolt is a chance to own a greater share of the battery-making process, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations.

It has been in discussions with Britishvolt since late last year, according to two people, when the start-up nearly went into administration after running out of cash.

On Tuesday, the FT reported that DeaLab’s UK entity DeaLab Group Limited was late filing its annual accounts at Companies House. Accounts were subsequently filed later in the day.

The latest filings reclassified the business from “dormant” to “micro-entity”, and said it had £5mn in capital reserves and three employees.

Britishvolt declined to comment on the new offer. On Monday, the company said it was in talks to sell a majority of the business, and would “provide further details at the appropriate time”.


Business Asia
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