Abacus rescued from administration

Lighting manufacturer Abacus has been rescued from administration by a group of investors after racking up an £8 million pension deficit.

Managing director Andrew Morris-Richardson (pictured) has left the business, which is to be recapitalised with £5 million investment and working capital from investors Orbis Partners, Diesel Marine International and Centric Commercial Finance.

Morris-Richardson will be replaced by Steve Lamb, who is new to the lighting industry having previously built and sold a successful software business.

Accounting firm Deloitte was appointed as administrator last week, selling the bulk of the Abacus group’s trade and assets to ‘an unconnected newly-formed company’, Abacus said in a statement. It was previously owned by directors Ruth Pratt, Geoffrey Hall and Andrew Morris-Richardson.

The statement said: ‘The group has suffered cash flow difficulties as a result of five years of heavy investment in an ambitious international growth strategy and increasing payments to meet the liabilities of a defined benefit pension scheme, which was over £8 million in deficit.’

The scheme will now be transferred to the Pension Protection Fund, which compensates members of defunct pension schemes.

Abacus, originally set up in 1958, said that under its new ownership it will ‘build on the core strengths of the business, with an increased customer focus and the resources to ensure that the innovation and quality which it is known for continues to thrive.’

Group turnover last year was £32 million, of which half came from overseas. All 150 UK employees have been kept on, the company said.

James Grenfell, senior partner at Orbis Partners told Lux: ‘Abacus is a fantastic business that has suffered largely as a result of an underfunded pension liability that has drained its resources. The core business has always been profitable and provides a great platform for us to focus on Abacus’s strengths of product innovation and quality lighting solutions. We're long-term investors, and we're here to support, develop and grow the business.'

Dominic Wong of Deloitte said: ‘This transaction provides the best outcome for creditors including the approximately 150 UK employees who transferred to the new business.’

 

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