Curators (Liquidator’s) at Van Hool enables rapid restart with VDL Group & GRW/Schmitz Cargobull

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    It’s been an uncertain time for Van Hool, their suppliers, staff and customers, however in the final statement issued by the company it seems certain that production will resume, and the brand has been saved. Many Irish Operators waiting for new vehicles have been assured that vehicles in production will be delivered, but as one operator said, they are not here yet. Let’s hope the future is bright.

    The curators (Liquidator’s) have reached a preliminary agreement with VDL Group (coaches and buses) and GRW, a partner company of Schmitz Cargobull (trailers).

    The board of curators at Van Hool, the independent manufacturer of buses, coaches, and industrial vehicles, which was declared bankrupt by the Commercial Court of Mechelen on Monday, April 8, 2024, is enabling a swift restart of the company. The curators have discussed and ultimately accepted the binding offer made by VDL Groep (Netherlands) and GRW (South Africa), a partner company of Schmitz Cargobull (Germany), with all relevant stakeholders. Other bids presented to the board of curators in recent days were also discussed with the same stakeholders and ultimately not accepted.

    From the outset of their mandate, the aim of the board of curators was to facilitate a swift restart in order to, on one hand, safeguard the intrinsic value of the entire company and, on the other hand, preserve as much employment as possible.

    Jeroen Pinoy, one of the curators, comments: “The interest from the various parties was very genuine and demonstrated a commendable appreciation for the bankrupt company Van Hool and its employees. Upon comparing the totality of the various components of the recent bids and expressions of interest, it became evident that they were not significantly superior to the binding offer presented by VDL Groep and GRW last week. There was a risk that without an immediate restart of the company, the valuable employee pool at Van Hool would be lost. Furthermore, the delivery of ordered vehicles (including coaches, buses, and industrial vehicles) would be further delayed, inevitably resulting in lost revenues. This would effectively dry up both production and distribution channels, causing irreparable damage. In consultation with the relevant stakeholders, we are convinced that the acquisition of the bankrupt Van Hool by VDL Groep and GRW is the best solution for employment and enables a sustainable restart.”

    The process was intensive, under immense pressure due to the liquidity position of the company, owing to the unresolved familial inheritance situation. Given the circumstances, the preliminary agreements reached with the internationally renowned family-owned businesses VDL Groep and GRW represent the best achievable outcome for all parties involved. However, this does not negate the fact that many employees will unfortunately have to seek employment outside of Van Hool.

    With this preliminary agreement, a definitive end comes to Van Hool, an iconic company in the Flemish manufacturing industry. Following the bankruptcy of Van Hool NV and the overarching family holding company, Immoroc NV, declared by the Commercial Court of Mechelen on Monday, April 8, the curators were tasked with finding suitable takeover candidates. Van Hool NV had found itself in an extremely challenging financial situation, partly due to external factors such as the impact of the coronavirus, global supply chain issues, significant inflation, and high energy costs. With the appointment of Marc Zwaaneveld as co-CEO alongside Filip Van Hool on January 17, it became clear that the tide needed to be turned in the short term. On March 11, a ‘Van Hool Recovery Plan’ was announced, outlining a strategic reorientation of the company and an intention for collective dismissal of 1,100 employees. Given the urgency of the situation, a short deadline of March 31 was set. Discussions were held with various stakeholders including banks, government agencies, shareholders, the Board of Directors, trade unions, and potential investors. On March 19, Van Hool was granted temporary protection against its creditors by the Commercial Court of Mechelen. On March 25, the company announced that a familial inheritance dispute among shareholders and the Van Hool family remained unresolved, prompting immediate efforts towards an alternative exploration of scenarios. Talks were intensified with potential acquirers to explore the possibility of a rapid restart, with consideration for all stakeholders and especially the company’s employees. Ultimately, VDL Groep (for coaches and buses) and GRW (for industrial vehicles), themselves internationally active in the manufacturing industry, emerged as the most suitable candidates for the acquisition of bankrupt Van Hool.