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South Africa - Auction of liquidated ATS's factory equipment attracts worldwide bids

Pretoria - The auction of liquidated ATS Light Alloy Wheels' manufacturing plant in Babelegi near Pretoria has attracted interest from Europe, the US, India and China as well as local bidders.

The bidding process, which opened on June 20 and closes on July 25, is being handled by Park Village Auctions.

Jack Moulder, a spokesperson for the auctioneering firm, said yesterday that the many inquiries received from foreign and local sources underlined the significance of the offering.

"This is the largest liquidated manufacturing and engineering facility in South Africa to come up for sale and the level of interest is therefore entirely expected," he said.

ATS was placed in final liquidation on August 21 last year after cash flow problems forced senior management and directors to sell up.

The liquidation resulted in about 440 workers at the plant losing their jobs.

Moulder said the first offers for the world-class plant, which was commissioned in 1999 at a cost of R315 million, were being assessed. A lot of people had been through the factory to view the equipment.

The facility was capable of producing up to 1.5 million alloy wheels a year for domestic and international markets.

The state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment up for disposal included the gas and induction melting furnaces, the foundry, robotic machining cells, finishing plant, paint plant, warehousing, toolroom and packaging gear.

It would take 14 days after bidding had closed to adjudicate offers and notify the bidders, Moulder said.

The adjudication would be done in conjunction with the liquidator and equipment experts to ensure market-related prices were received to the benefit of creditors.

Moulder said the sale of the equipment had been marketed directly to 250 clients overseas and the company was hopeful of selling everything.

He said the 42 000m2 factory building, including the extensive warehousing, offices and other facilities, was now also being offered for sale.

Park Village Auctions had delayed putting the premises on the market because all the equipment had to be moved out of the factory first.

"I foresee that it could take up to the end of November to vacate the property," he said.

ATS Light Alloy Wheels is a wholly owned subsidiary of German firm ATS Beteiligungs, in which JSE-listed Tiger Wheels owns 74 percent, and which has plants in Germany, Poland and the US.

An offer by an unnamed black empowerment company to acquire the manufacturing plant in Babelegi as a going concern failed earlier this year when the bidder failed to raise the finance for the deal.

ATS staff, who had a preferent claim for salary arrears of about R8.6 million, have received payments from the liquidators.

An advance dividend of R2.6 million was paid late last year and a further R6 million dividend earlier this year.

The employees now only have concurrent claims outstanding against the company's estate, which will be paid out when other creditors are paid.

The four major creditors are First National Bank, BHP Billiton, Nedbank and Tiger Wheel.

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