Eddie Stobart, Britain’s best-known trucking firm, will be bailed out by its former owners after shareholders on Friday voted in favour of a private equity-style takeover for the struggling company.
Douglas Bay Capital (DBay), backed by the famous trucker’s son William Stobart, will take control of Eddie Stobart’s assets in a £75m bailout that should prevent the company going bankrupt before Christmas.
The deal represents a victory for William Stobart over his former brother-in-law, Andrew Tinkler, who had mounted a rival £80m bid to take over the firm with the backing of unnamed investors. The childhood friends have previously taken turns to run the company at various points in its recent history.
Tinkler was present at a short shareholder meeting on Friday morning in London. He spoke briefly against the DBay bid, although sources in the public company’s meeting – from which journalists were barred – said his tone was calm.
The vote offers a short-term reprieve for Eddie Stobart’s 6,500 workers, who had faced the prospect of the company falling into administration shortly before Christmas, and only months shy of the company’s 50th anniversary.
The Warrington-based company, which counts Amazon, Coca-Cola and Tesco among its customers, recorded a loss of at least £12m in the first half of the financial year. It is also struggling with £200m worth of debt. However, the company has acknowledged that accounting problems revealed in August mean the losses may have been significantly higher.
Eddie Stobart’s board had insisted that DBay’s offer was the only one that would prevent its banks – AIB, BNP Paribas, Bank of Ireland and KBC – from foreclosing on loans. The board had claimed that would have pushed the company into administration almost immediately, although shareholders and unions said it was impossible to judge if this was the case, given the lack of financial information given since August.
The deal means DBay will shortly start receiving interest at an annual rate of 25% on £55m in loans to the company. There will also be another £20m of available credit.