Buyout bid for Leyland DAF vans to go ahead

Author: MARY FAGAN, Industrial Correspondent

The move could save the remaining 1,200 jobs at the site. About 600 workers at the Birmingham factory were made redundant following the collapse of Leyland DAF last month.

If the finance can be raised for the buyout, the operations would continue as a stand-alone business catering for the UK market alone.

Allan Amey, managing director of the van operation, is leading the buyout team and is joined by five other directors. Mr Amey, who is being advised by Coopers & Lybrand, is seeking potential investors before formally approaching the receivers.

John Newton, one of the receivers, said: ‘It is an excellent development. It is really a question for the buyout team to see what they can do with their financial advisers to get a package together.’

Mr Newton also said that the van plant and the truck factory at Leyland in Lancashire – which is not linked to Mr Amey’s buyout bid – would return to full production this week.

The receivers have until recently had problems with suppliers, which it was feared would jeopardise the future of the plants. However, Mr Newton said: ‘It is back as a going concern.’

Meanwhile, Mr Amey said that his team had thoroughly examined every aspect of the van manufacturing and panel pressing business and were confident that their rescue plan formed the basis of a viable company.

He added: ‘We believe that many of the elements needed to underpin a successful business are already in place. We have experienced managers backed by a loyal workforce.

‘The events of recent weeks have clearly demonstrated that we have the support of customers who want to go on buying our vehicles.’

Mr Amey issued a plea that anyone thinking of commercial van purchases should consider Leyland DAF. He said that the support of these people could be vital to securing the future of Britain’s only ‘steel-to-wheels’ van factory.

As well as manufacturing vans, the Birmingham factory supplies panels for Rover’s Range Rover, Land-Rover and Discovery ranges. Other customers include the Leyland DAF truck plant and DAF’s truck factory in Belgium.

John Allan, the chief negotiator for the engineering and electrical union AEEU, described the management’s move as ‘fantastic news’.

He said: ‘Clearly this buyout has professional institutions supporting it and we are confident this will provide a sound basis for the future of the plant, not just in the short term. It has our full backing.’

The van plant, at Washwood Heath on the outskirts of Birmingham, has received strong local support, including orders from Birmingham City Council that have helped take the order book to 10 weeks.

Royal Mail and Parcelforce, the biggest customers, have also refused to cancel their existing orders.

The British operations have been excluded from a rescue package for DAF in Belgium and the Netherlands, which is being put together by the governments of those two countries in an effort to save jobs.

The UK government has come under attack from the Labour Party and unions for failing to provide funds to help bail out the plants in the UK.

The truck factory in Leyland is also likely to be the subject of a management buyout bid, but this is proving more complex to organise because of the way the business is linked to its Continental counterparts in the failed group.

The receivers have made clear that they believe that much depends on being able to retain strong marketing and production links with the truck business on the Continent.

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